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Happy Thirtieth Anniversary, “Clifford!”

Thirty years ago today, a marvel of a movie was released: Clifford, starring Charles Grodin, Martin Short, and Mary Steenburgen. When I say marvel, I don’t mean it’s a masterpiece. Paul Flaherty’s Clifford is really kind of a mess. Short plays a ten-year-old in the care of his uncle, Martin. When he reneges on a promise to fulfill Clifford’s dream of visiting the Dinosaur World amusement park, Clifford embarks on a sadistic revenge mission to humiliate Uncle Martin in front of his boss  and estrange him from his child-loving fiancée, Miss Sarah Davis (Steenburgen). Moviegoing audiences didn’t take to it.

The film, like so many family-oriented originals with spring releases in the pre-streaming era, was a commercial and critical bomb. But it grew a loyal fan base thanks to basic cable airings – again, a pre-streaming era thing. (See also: Hocus Pocus.) Flaherty’s cast, which also includes the incomparable Dabney Coleman, certainly gives it their all. It’s worth checking out.