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Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
Directing: B-
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

I have to be honest: Being Elmo kind of disappointed me a little. Not a whole lot -- it's still pretty good -- but a little bit. Documentaries can only be as good as their subject matter, after all, but even the admittedly extraordinary career trajectory of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind the massively popular Elmo from Sesame Street, doesn't feel quite adequately represented.

Honestly, this might better have been titled Being Kevin Clash, because that's really what it's about: the story, focused on his career, of this man who eventually became the man behind Elmo. But he was also behind early-eighties characters on The Great Space Coaster and Captain Kangaroo; he was behind some other pre-Elmo muppets on Sesame Street; he was behind the "Firey Dancers" sequence on Labyrinth. And, of course, behind him were Muppets legends Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Kermit Love. Stories about these guys come up, and you get the sense that their lives would make for far more interesting and inspiring stories.

That's not to say that Kevin Clash's story isn't inspiring, but there's no denying that he's standing on the shoulders of giants. To his credit, he displays a nice blend of confidence and humility, and seems grateful for the massive success of Elmo, who wasn't even entirely his creation. When Elmo first appeared on Sesame Street, he spoke in a jarring caveman voice. The puppeteer using him at the time was fed up with him, tossed him into Kevin's lap, and told him to see what he can do with him. And then Kevin gave Elmo the voice and personality we all know today.

But Elmo is just one chapter in the story of Kevin Clash presented here, and the muppet's insane popularity is curiously gleaned over here. We get little more than a brief vignette regarding the whole Tickle Me Elmo craze, even though one could logically deduce that that period had by far the greatest direct impact on Kevin's life. There's a strange sort of guardedness to the telling of Kevin's story, especially when it comes to his personal life: even though we see footage of his daughter's rather elaborate sweet-sixteen birthday party, we get the briefest glimpse of who we learn is his ex-wife. How did all this success really affect Kevin's entire family? We never really find out. And if we're not going to be told, why bring them into this at all, when the focus is clearly intended to be on his career, and Elmo specifically?

All that aside, Kevin generally has a winning personality, and of course any time Elmo as a character is on screen he's ridiculously charming. I wish there were more of Elmo, actually. But in his absence, the story of Kevin Clash's evolution from a poor kid from Baltimore to one of the most successful puppeteers in history is an adequately absorbing one.

Kevin Clash is a unique rags-to-riches story in <i>BEING ELMO; A PUPPETEER&apos;S JOURNEY.

Overall: B-
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