The Muppet Elmo is one of the most beloved characters among children across the globe. Meet the unlikely man behind the puppet – the heart and soul of Elmo – Kevin Clash.
Writers: Philip Shane, Justin Weinstein
Director: Constance Marks
Stars: Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg and Frank Oz
Runtime: 80 Minutes
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
“Elmo Represents Love”, his love takes you over and warms your heart in one of the most passionate documentary’s I’ve ever seen, “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey”. The story of Kevin Clash going from a young boy with a dream of becoming a puppeteer, to providing the voice, the heart and the soul of the world’s most beloved puppet; Elmo.
I was so excited to see this documentary. Even from the first time I read about it, I knew that it was going to be a heartfelt tale of a man who achieved his calling in life and is lucky enough to share that gift with people from all over the world and of all generations!
When I first sat down in the theater to watch this film, my girlfriend and I were the only people in the seats. We were excited for a minute because we usually feel it’s great to have the theater to yourself! Shortly after, a little flow of people came in and joined us. First it was a couple in their middle ages. Next it was a lone man who seemed closer to 100 than to 50. A handful of more couples walked in, one speaking in a foreign language, and finally a man walked in with his young son. I realized before the movie even began that this is a character, a story, and a movie going experience that touches everyone and spans generations. For the next hour and a half, we all sat together and laughed out loud, broke into tears and re-fell in love with Elmo.
Kevin Clash was not a typical kid growing up in the Baltimore area. He fell in love with the puppets he would see on TV and became so inspired that he dedicated all the free time he had to sewing his very own puppets and creating the characters and voices to go along with them. He had early success with his local TV station performing weekly on his very own show that gained local popularity. By the time he was 18 he had given life to more than 85 of his own puppets.
His career was taken to the next level when he was found by one of the most successful puppet creators in the business, a man with a very recognizable name, Kermit Love. Kermit Love took the young Kevin under his wing helping him land parts on shows such as “Captain Kangaroo” and “The Great Space Coaster” and later giving Kevin his biggest break, an introduction with Jim Henson.
The movie continues to talk about the life and rise to stardom of Kevin. The stories accounted are helped out by Kevin’s mother and father, shown to always be supportive of Kevin’s dream, his brothers and sisters, other puppeteers and entertainers that he has worked with, and unfortunately, Whoopi Goldberg. She would be credited as the Narrator if there was an official title given and I found her to be pretty annoying. In an honest story like this one I thought she was giving a forced emotion to her readings. The music in the movie, obviously assists in making it such a passion filled movie, is prevalent and I found it to be over the top at times. I don’t know if there is a moment of the movie not accompanied by an inspiring backdrop of music.
The story very much focuses on the professional life and stardom of Kevin Clash. It almost, too obviously disregards his personal life. I missed the one mention of his “Ex-wife” in the movie and left thinking “with all the time away, this man must have never been at home for his family”. It doesn’t take anything away for the documentary’s sake, but it was something that I noticed. The movie’s purpose is to make you feel the love for the character and show selected parts of the puppeteer’s journey. It is not a complete tale of the man himself. It chooses to include what it does to portray the desired message.
Perhaps the most interesting story is the creation of the Elmo character. Elmo was first a puppet on Sesame Street voiced in caveman like fashion by famous puppeteer Richard Hunt. When Hunt grew tired of the character and was fed up with the fuzzy red puppet he unceremoniously tossed it to Kevin Clash. In a matter of hours, Kevin transformed the puppet into the character we all now know and love. A Puppet that represents love, and hugs and kisses…and tickles! “Being Elmo” is a moving and heartwarming tale that everyone will enjoy!