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Being Elmo

Being Elmo

Released 27 April 2012
Director Constance Marks

Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Oz
Writer(s) Philip Shane, Justin Weinstein

Corinne LaPook, Constance Marks, James Miller
Origin United States
Running Time 80 minutes
Genre Documentary
Rating TBC

A Sesame treat.

Being Elmo could scar a young child for life. Its gratuitous scenes of puppet sewing are akin to being told there’s no such thing as Santa Claus. For bigger kids though, there’s a lot to like about this documentary on Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind the most loved character down on Sesame Street.

As a child, Clash became increasingly drawn to the world of puppets until one day he demolished the furry lining of his father’s best coat to make one of his own. Luckily, his father was a particularly understanding man and from that day Kevin was hooked, striving to perfect his furry little characters. We follow Kevin’s trajectory from local television to the bright lights of New York City and finally the realisation of his dream to work with Jim Henson.

It’s a sweet story about a nice guy who for once doesn’t come last. That for one makes Being Elmo stand out in the mostly dour world of the modern documentary but still, the lack of dramatic tension in the story is something of a problem. Although Kevin comes from a poor background, the path to his dream job actually runs remarkably smoothly thanks to his natural talent and fortunate habit of being in the right place at the right time. The film tries to introduce some conflict in the form of high school teasing (which stopped when Kevin’s habit of playing with dolls got him on TV) and the regrets he has about not spending time with his young daughter but both are thrown in half-heartedly.

At the end of the day though, it is difficult to criticise the film too much in the face of its relentlessly upbeat approach and enthusiasm for its subject. For fans of Henson, we get an insight into the art of puppetry with behind the scenes footage of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show and features like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Clash himself is easy to like and admire - the dedication and passion he has for his craft is amazing and if you aren’t touched by the footage of Elmo interacting with sick children, you must be made of stone.

- Linda O’Brien