Being Elmo

Posted January 24, 2011 in
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Elmo surrounded by children in "Being Elmo"

Being Elmo
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Constance Marks

When Elmo (as we know him today) crashed onto the scene of Sesame Street in 1985, probably not even Jim Henson himself could have imagined the elmosteria that would break out across the world. Although the furry red monster appeared on the children’s show as early as the ‘70s, as we learn in "Being Elmo", it wasn’t until a young puppeteer named Kevin Clash picked him up that the puppet came into his own, eventually becoming one of the most adored characters on the show. The film’s major focus is on Kevin Clash’s journey to Elmo. Although there is plenty that is said about Clash throughout the film, by its close, I didn’t feel like I knew anything incredibly profound about the man behind the muppet. He grew up outside of Baltimore with a strong and supportive family. He wanted to be a puppeteer as a child and after cutting up the lining of his father’s jacket to make a puppet—instead of punishment he was simply told to ask next time. By 25 Clash was working as a puppeteer with Henson on the film "Labyrinth". The comments made by his colleges are all heavily tied to his life with Elmo—some even noting that Elmo’s defining characteristics of love are an embodiment of Clash’s parents. Although "Being Elmo" is somewhat of a “by-the-numbers” documentary, it’s difficult not to enjoy it. People love Elmo, thus they will love a documentary focused on Elmo. "Being Elmo" is a feel good documentary about achieving your dreams. The sweetness of the subject overshadows the fact that there isn’t much “substance” to the film.

Elmo surrounded by children in "Being Elmo" Kevin Clash learning the skill as a kid in "Being Elmo". Photo courtesy of Kevin Clash Elmo talking with a kid in "Being Elmo" Kevin Clash with Elmo filming an episode of "Sesame Street" in "Being Elmo". Photo by Richard Termine "Being Elmo" director Constance Marks. Photo by James Miller