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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 42 - Clifford (1994)

Clifford (1994; Orion Pictures)
How does one define creepy?  What about terrifying?  Well that’s what you get with Clifford.  It is an uncomfortable, unfunny mess about a young boy (the title character played by Martin Short... I’ll let that sink in for a moment) who is a real troublemaker, so he is dumped on his uncle (played by Charles Grodin).  From here the young Clifford is obsessed with going to a theme park called Dinosuar World.  That’s not all though!

This entire piece of garbage is told in flashback, where Father Clifford (also played by Martin Short in creepy old person makeup) is telling this story of his childhood to a young troublemaker played by Ben Savage (the Boy Meets World guy).  So we get a lot of creepy scenes where this priest is telling this already incredibly creepy story to a boy in a park.  A lot of them.

The idea of a kid causing trouble for adults was all the rage in the early 90’s because of the massive success of Home Alone and a couple other greatly forgotten family films like Curly Sue and this genre dominated the scene until Jurassic Park came out and every movie was a dinosaur flick.  Clifford, however, is easily the worst of this trend.  It’s a film that didn’t really even try and it shows.  You can take every reaction Charles Grodin has in this film to Clifford’s behavior and replace it with “Beethoven!” and it will fit.

Now, to be fair, Clifford was actually finished four years before its release.  It fell victim to one of many studio collapses in the late 80’s and early 90’s due to massive production costs, excessive contractual obligations and expensive pensions for mechanics, technicians and the like.  The year of Clifford’s scheduled release was 1990, but it was during that time that the film suffered a major drawback in the form of growing fiscal difficulties for it’s production company Orion Pictures.  Orion would sell off this and a number of other projects but will ultimately file for bankruptcy in 1991.  The company would limp along through the 90’s until the closing of its doors in 1998.

Back to Clifford.  I will close in saying that this is one of the most aggravating movies I’ve ever seen.  Martin Short gives the most annoying performance of his entire career as a leering, creepy and disturbed ten-year-old.  His expression is both evil and curious, in the way a first time serial killer is curious.  I hate this character.  Every scene he has is disturbing and uncomfortable, and none of the other characters (including those played by Mary Steenbergen or Richard Kind) have enough to do.  Nope.  This is all about Clifford... Unfortunately.

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