Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Flaherty|
|Produced by||Larry Brezner
Pieter Jan Brugge
|Written by||Jay Dee Rock &
Bobby Von Hayes
|Narrated by||Martin Short|
|Music by||Richard Gibbs|
|Cinematography||John A. Alonzo|
|Editing by||Tim Board
Pembroke J. Herring
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
|Release dates||April 1, 1994 (USA)|
|Running time||90 min.|
|Box office||$7,411,659 (USA)|
The film was shot in 1990 and originally planned for release in the summer of 1991, but remained in limbo for several years due to Orion Pictures' bleak financial situation. It wasn't released until 1994.
At a Catholic school in 2050, an elderly priest named Clifford (Martin Short) runs into a troublesome boy named Roger, who is running away after threatening to blow up the gym when his parents won't allow him to play on the basketball team. He tries to persuade him to change his mind about running away and change his troublesome ways by telling him a story of his own youth.
Flashing back to the present-day (1994), the 10-year-old Clifford (also Martin Short) is a deceptive, evil, weird-looking boy who loves dinosaurs and desires to visit Dinosaur World, a theme park located in California. He also has a small toy dinosaur he is never without, whom he calls "Stephan." He talks to "Stephan" constantly and blames him for any results of his own bad behavior.
While flying with his parents to Honolulu, Clifford decides to go visit the Captain at the front, requesting the Captain to land the plane in L.A., however, the Captain replies that he can only do so if it was an emergency, so Clifford stops the plane's engines, forcing it to make an emergency landing in Los Angeles. At the airport, his father, Julien (Richard Kind), scolds Clifford because his son is banned from the flight, though Julien has an important engagement to attend, however, Clifford comes up with an alternative: that since his Uncle Martin (Charles Grodin) resides in Los Angeles, that Clifford would go stay with his Uncle Martin, so that Clifford can go to Dinosaur World while Julien can attend his meeting.
Seeing it as an opportunity to get his destructive, evil monster of a son out of his hair, Julien phones his twin brother Martin to propose the idea of Clifford staying with him for a while. Martin thinks that this could be the perfect opportunity to prove to his fiancée, Sarah Davis (Mary Steenburgen), how well he interacts with children (earlier that day, she threatened to end their engagement after Martin purchased a house for them that was not suitable for children), especially his nephew whom he hasn't seen since he was Christianized. Little does he know that a calculating monster hides behind Clifford's innocent smile.
Upon their reunion, Clifford asks Martin if he could take him to Dinosaur World, and Martin reveals to Clifford that he designed Larry the Scary Rex (a Dinosaur World attraction) and is able to get into the park free of charge. This only strengthens Clifford's obsession to visit the theme park. On there way home from the airport, Martin pulls by Sarah Davis' house, and Clifford develops and immediate crush on Sarah. After they leave Sarah's house, and go to Martin's house, Martin tells him that he will take Clifford to Dinosaur World. Clifford then reveals that he wants to marry Sarah someday, but Martin calmly (yet disgustedly) tells Clifford that HE'S gonna marry Sarah. The next day, Martin takes Clifford with him to the architectural plant where he worked due to a meeting with his boss, and would take Clifford to Dinosaur World, afterword. He introduces both Clifford and Sarah to his boss, Mr. Ellis (Dabney Coleman), and Clifford accidentally compliments his wig, even though Martin claims it isn't a wig. Mr. Ellis also shows his womanizing side when he tells Sarah that there's something he would "love to discuss something about." Later, in his meeting with his boss, Martin is ultimately forced to back out on his promise to Clifford because Mr. Ellis wants Martin to redesign new plans for the transportation system of Los Angeles in only two days. This enrages Clifford, who embarks on a path of destruction and sabotage. While Martin buys chocolate at a convenience store for Clifford, Clifford notices a family going to Dinosaur World and sees a boy named Kevin in a dinosaur costume heading to the restroom. Clifford buys the dinosaur costume and also gives Kevin his own clothes. Clifford then gets into Kevin's family's van wearing the dinosaur costume and hoping no one will notice. But Martin finds Kevin wearing Clifford's clothes in the restroom, and finds Clifford in the van, causing Kevin's mother to think that Martin assaulted Kevin. But Kevin comes out of the restroom, proving that Martin was telling the truth about Kevin. After this, back at the house, Martin scolds Clifford for what he did, and refuses to take him to Dinosaur World, ever.
Clifford is then sent to his room after threatening Uncle Martin that he "wouldn't be responsible for what he's gonna do next," and Sarah calls him to remind him about her parent's anniversary party, and, after hearing the conversation on the other line, Clifford gets even more upset after he sees the hypocrisy that his Uncle Martin has time to go to a party, yet no time to take him to Dinosaur World, so he turns his uncle's life upside down, jeopardizing Martin's relationship with Sarah as well as his job. First, he gets a recording of Martin's punishment and edits it sounding like a bomb threat. He later causes Martin to be humiliated at Sarah's parents' 35th wedding anniversary party by replacing his Bloody Mary with straight Tabasco sauce. Clifford manages to get Martin to do an unprepared toast, which turns into a disaster after Martin drinks the Tabasco and then tries to soothe his mouth by drinking straight out of the punch bowl in front of Sarah's family. Clifford causes further embarrassment by replacing Martin's ChapStick with lipstick, and tops it off by getting him arrested in front of Sarah's family after calling in the fake bomb threat he made earlier, causing Martin to have a criminal record. After he gets out on bail, he picks up Clifford from Sarah's house, where Clifford was staying while Martin was in jail, and lies to Sarah about the whole arrest being a prank from a friend, and the cops were in it, too. But when he and Clifford get back to the house, he scolds Clifford for what happened, and even brings up that he had to be strip searched, and Clifford lies to Martin about the disaster and his regret for doing it, and he reveals that he was angry about Martin breaking his promise to take him to Dinosaur World. Enraged and annoyed, Martin asks why Clifford is so obsessed with Dinosaur World, and Clifford reveals that he thinks Dinosaur World is "the only place in the world where a boy like him can be happy." Calming down, Martin tells Clifford about a time when he felt the same way with another theme park when he was a kid, but it got torn down before he could go there, and tells Clifford to go make a confession to the police that he made a fake bomb threat to frame his Uncle, however, Clifford is still hot on revenge, so, to add further punishment for Martin's reneging on his promise, Clifford tricks him into boarding a train to San Francisco where Sarah was meeting Ellis to "open a new daycare center" (of course, Martin knows it's just a womanizing scam), and the two run into each other. Sarah thinks he's spying on her, but Martin finally pours out the truth about Clifford, and even compares Clifford to Hitler and The Manson Family. Disgusted, Sarah once again threatens to end the engagement and calls Martin an "old man and a phony." Martin throws her words back at her, and Martin heads back to the airport. Meanwhile, Clifford is throwing a party in Martin's house while he is in San Francisco. When he gets back, he finds Clifford tied up in his bedroom, claiming that bikers did this to him, however, Martin doesn't buy it, and locks him in his room, nailing the door and windows shut. Sarah comes back from San Francisco early (after Mr. Ellis tried to sexually assault her on the way back to her hotel), and arrives the next morning to Martin's house and finds what happened, and Clifford lies to her about Martin doing it, and, seeing how flipped out Martin is, she believes Clifford, and believes that Martin is not able to watch Clifford, and takes Clifford home with her. Later, at a press conference, Martin realizes that Clifford planted a bomb in a presentation for the new design of the transportation system, which causes him to be fired.
With his life in ruins as a result of Clifford's destructive behavior, Martin's sanity snaps. Martin drives to Sarah's house and abducts Clifford, putting his nephew in a straitjacket. Martin finally takes Clifford to Dinosaur World, after hours, to make him ride the Larry the Scary Rex ride until he can no longer take it. After going through it once, Clifford seems to enjoy himself, so Martin ups the ride's speed again and again, to the point where, he says, he puts it on "hyperdrive." The ride malfunctions and Clifford's cart crashes, leaving him dangling above the jaws of a robotic dinosaur.
Clifford cries out for Martin to save him. Martin hesitates because he worries about what could happen in the future of mankind if he saves Clifford's life. However, he decides to do the right thing and risks his own life to save Clifford, and the two escape just before everything collapses. Clifford finally apologizes for his behavior, but Martin is fed up. He tells Clifford that he is a destructive thing, not a human. Clifford, who was upset, decides not to go home with Martin.
We momentarily return to the future when Father Clifford says that this experience made him turn his life around. He wrote hundreds of letters asking his uncle's forgiveness, to little avail. But later on, Sarah gave him "the bestest request in the whole wide world," inviting him to be their ring bearer at Martin's and Sarah's wedding, a request that Clifford asked Martin earlier in the movie, which meant that he had finally forgiven Clifford.
Roger decides to not run away and to write hundreds of letters, asking for forgiveness. As Roger walks back into the School, Father Clifford then takes out "Stephan," saying, "Mission accomplished, old friend," and leaves the School.
- Martin Short as Young Clifford Daniels/Father Clifford Daniels
- Charles Grodin as Martin Daniels
- Mary Steenburgen as Sarah Davis
- Dabney Coleman as Gerald Ellis
- Richard Kind as Julien Daniels
- Jennifer Savidge as Theodora Daniels
- Ben Savage as Roger
- Don Galloway as Captain
- Tim Lane as Navigator
- Timothy Stack as Kevin's Father
- Marianne Muellerleile as Kevin's Mother
- G.D. Spradlin as Parker Davis
- Anne Jeffreys as Annabelle Davis
- Richard Fancy as Detective
The film was critically panned. It currently holds a 9% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews (20 negative, 2 positive). Roger Ebert gave the film a half-star of a possible four. He wrote: "The movie is so odd, it's almost worth seeing just because we'll never see anything like it again. I hope." Despite this, the film still received a cult following from viewers, as 68% of the audiences liked it on Rotten Tomatoes 
Like other films which were released by Orion Pictures several years after they had surpassed their bankruptcy period, Clifford failed to make a profit at the box office in addition to being critically panned. Its domestic gross was only a mere $7 million at the domestic box office.