THAT’S NOT ROTTEN! ‘Clifford’ Practically Defines Cult Comedy

clifford-3

With THAT’S NOT ROTTEN, Sean picks a movie deemed rotten on Rotten Tomatoes and illustrates why it’s better than thought.

Have you ever had someone you really respected like a certain piece of pop culture that leaves you simply asking, “Really?” But because of their word you give it a chance and are pleasantly surprised to realize that you were too quick to judge something based on what you expected it to be and not what it actually is. While sifting through the 24 hours of comedy on the Scharpling & Wurster box set, the repetition of a certain line from Clifford, the Martin Short movie where Martin Short plays a 10-year-old boy, got me wondering if I might’ve written that movie off too soon. Having now taken the 90 minutes to watch Clifford in its entirety, I was genuinely surprised that it is a rather solid comedy.

A number of factors conspired to relegate Clifford’s legacy to mainly an oft-repeated joke on an underground comedy radio show, chief among them the financial problems that its studio, Orion. When Orion fell on hard times, it withheld release to a number of its films, including Clifford and Robocop 3. Comedy is very much a product of its time which is why it’s so hard to make comedy that endures. Clifford was intended for a 1991 release but was delayed nearly three years before finally opening in April of 1994. Without a doubt, Clifford would’ve fared better in 1991, when The Naked Gun 2 ½ was the 10th highest grossing film of the year, than in 1994, where the face of cinematic comedy was changing with the massive success of Jim Carey.

clifford-1

On its surface, Clifford looks to be nothing more than Martin Short playing a 10-year-old, being super-annoying, and that’s it. Except the film is aware of this and makes the character of Clifford as irredeemably unlikeable. As a matter of fact, Clifford is the villain of his own story. He’s a scheming, manipulative being that aims to wear people down in order to get what he wants. Even with the bookends of an elderly Clifford in 2050, working as a priest at an orphanage, the film shows that Clifford is unable to actually redeem himself, even with the best intentions he is still an irritant.

As much as Martin Short is the bizarre conceit of the film, a 40-year-old actor portraying a 10-year-old boy, the glue that holds Clifford together is the performance of Charles Grodin as Clifford’s uncle Martin. Though Martin is successful professionally, his relationship to Sarah (Mary Steenburgen) is on shaky ground when he purchases a home for the couple that isn’t equipped for children, which Sarah desperately desires. Unbeknownst to Martin, Clifford nearly crashed an airliner to land in Los Angeles in order to go to Dinosaur World, a theme park that Clifford obsesses over. As a favor to his brother that he’s no longer talks to and to prove to Sarah that he likes children, Martin agrees to take in Clifford, much to the elation of Clifford’s exhausted parents. But Martin is lying when he tells Sarah that he and Clifford are close. The last time Martin actually saw his nephew was at the child’s baptism. Being unaware of Clifford’s manic personality and basing his motivations upon a lie, Martin’s personal and professional life is about to be thrown into complete upheaval.

clifford-2

Clifford’s attempts at manipulating Martin start when they first meet. Laying in a waiting room pretending to sleep, Clifford’s first words when awoken by Martin are, “Don’t reject me, Uncle Martin!” When professional obligations force Martin to cancel their planned trip to Dinosaur World, Clifford begins to torment Martin, pushing him to the brink of insanity. Clifford not only sabotages Martin at every available opportunity at work, whether it’s calling in bomb threats or complimenting Martin’s boss, played by Dabney Coleman, on his magnificent toupée. Worst of all, Clifford becomes infatuated with Sarah and goes out of his way to undermine Martin in front of Sarah and her family. Sarah sees Clifford and this sweet little child and Martin as a selfish crank. Even though Martin is certainly a selfish crank, he’s actually in the right here as Clifford is basically a prepubescent terrorist. And Grodin sells Martin’s slow descent into madness so perfectly, this seething rage hiding under his smiling façade. Then when Martin blows up, Grodin is able to coax strong laughs from the way he proclaims about Clifford, “he’ll be fine if you give him a ton of sugar and a book about Hitler.”

In many regards, Clifford feels reminiscent of What About Bob?, only had Clifford been released as planned it would never have been in the shadow of the Bill Murray vehicle. The studio problems that left Clifford buried also did irreparable damage to the creative crew of the film. Writers Jay Dee Rock and Bobby Von Hayes would never write another movie. It would be the last feature film that director Paul Flahtery would helm, though he did direct some episodes of Primetime Glick with Martin Short. Hell, even Charles Grodin was absent from screens for nearly 20 years following Clifford. All of which is a shame because Clifford is a perfect cult movie. It’s built on a weird foundation that will naturally repel a certain segment of the population. There’s a ton of laughs hidden in this little cinematic oddity. So when someone is asking you about a woefully underrated cult comedy, you can them, “I want to say Mason. Clifford! It’s Clifford!”

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
The Tiger Hunter
Now on Blu-ray: ‘The Tiger Hunter’ Glides by with its Charming Heart

Always a hot-button issue, the topic of immigration has recently dominated...

'12 Strong' Press Conference
Chris Hemsworth and the Cast and Crew of ’12 Strong’ Discuss Bringing the Declassified True Story to the Big Screen

In the days after 9/11, as the United States grieved the...

Matinee
Shout! Factory Unleashes Joe Dante’s Cult Classic ‘Matinee’ on Blu-ray

We’re at this point in pop culture where everything seems to...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Vr Change
Guest Author: Katie Green – How Might VR Change the Way We Play

Super Guest Author, Katie Green, shares how VR might change the...

Yu-Gi-Oh Wave of Light
A Big Wave is Coming – Yu-Gi-Oh Wave of Light Structure Deck Releases Friday

A big wave is coming in the form of light, Yu-Gi-Oh...

Yu-Gi-Oh Lost Cards
Ancient Treasures Uncovered – Yu-Gi-Oh Lost Art Cards

Beginning in February, ancient treasures will be revealed and fans will...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Die Hard Christmas
The Greatest Christmas Movie Becomes The Greatest Christmas Book – A Die Hard Christmas Review

The greatest Christmas movie ever made becomes the greatest Christmas storybook...

8.3/10
‘The 49th Key’ is a Familiar Story Told with Soul

Title: The 49th Key Written by: Erika Lewis Art by: J.K....

9.5/10
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, the ‘Doomsday Clock’ is about to Strike!

Title: Doomsday Clock #1 Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Gary Frank Colorist:...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
WWE Slam Crate Starts the Year Off Right

In just two weeks time WWE’s Royal Rumble not only continues...

January’s Loot Crate is Here!

January is a month where resolutions are made, hopes are extended...

Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba
Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 Will Be Great For Your Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba Cards

Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 will be great for your collection of Yu-Gi-Oh...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Bellator 192 Full Results including the Welterweight Championship and Heavyweight Grand Prix

January 20, 2018 – Tonight, airing for the first time on...

Bellator 192 Prelims Live on FanboyNation

Bellator: Lima vs. MacDonald – Live Tonight 9/8c, on Paramount Network...

LFA 30 Full Results

Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA), one of the most recognizable names in...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Adult Continuity #11 Star Wars Underworld: A XXX parody

ADULT CONTINUITY ISSUE # 11 STAR WARS UNDERWORLD A XXX PARODY...

New Year's Resolutions for Fandom
New Year’s Resolutions for Fandom

It’s the start of another year and while everyone out there...

Samo Says: Star Wars – The Last of My Patience

When I was a child, I loved Star Wars. I had...

Event News Event Reviews
dough bar
The Dough Bar and the Protein Donut

Created by Marquez and Ondrea Fernandez, The Dough Bar Doughnuts are...

truedark
Improve Sleep and Performance with TrueDark

TrueDark by Biohacked aims to improve your sleep, performance, and health by...

Pyramid Escape Room Review
Escape Room LA’s The Pyramid Escape Room Review

Overview of The Pyramid Escape Room The Pyramid Escape Room, Escape Room...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...