Movie Review: "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey"

Movie Review: "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey"

Summary: A doc on Kevin Clash, the African-American man behind the legendary puppet Elmo.

Published October 21, 2011

Summary : A doc on Kevin Clash , the African-American man behind the legendary puppet Elmo .

Review : Kevin Clash’s face is not well known, but his animated voice is the force behind a pop culture phenomenon, Elmo from Sesame Street .  The big-eyed hugger is a global star, and it all started with Clash, the first African-American to be part of the Jim Henson Empire, which gave us characters like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy .

Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg , Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey follows the life of Clash from a child who was teased for having a passion for puppets to his eventually meeting Kermit Love , who introduced him to Jim Henson. The story of Clash as Elmo might not appear to be the most interesting for a 72-minute doc. However, the documentary is an inspiring tale, proving that if you find your calling, your life can be exactly what you deserve. Clash was focused when few believed and understood his gift when it was mocked. He was an ambitious Black kid from a poor section of Maryland who would eventually become a television icon.

Directed by Constance Marks , Being Elmo is straightforward storytelling. For those who want a dose of reality show-type docu-drama, you will not find that in Clash's life. There are no sex tapes, drug binges or arrests. Clash saw his path and followed it, not letting anything get in his way. There isn’t even any talk of racial strife, being the first African-American to team with the late, great Jim Henson. Whatever obstacles Clash could've had, either he didn’t experience them or they weren’t detailed in the documentary.

That said, it would've been interesting to learn more about Clash's life outside of Elmo. But Clash is notoriously private, and maybe his personal life is not interesting enough. Not everyone has a tragic story to tell or is ready to breakdown in tears on camera. There is no huge emotional climax, but the direct inspiration is refreshing in today's over-dramatized storytelling climate.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey opens in New York today and select cities on Nov. 4.

Written by Clay Cane


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