Monday, January 2, 2012

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (B+)

If nothing else, debuting filmmaker Constance Marks' biopic on Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash will draw a gleaming smile on your face. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey is a sweet, incredibly true, inspirational tale of a man's gift to bring joy to others, mostly in puppet form. Unlike most documentaries, this film has no political or moral beliefs it wants to spread to its audience, nor does it attempt to explain key elements of our past. Running at a short 80 minutes, the film's only goal is to share the life of a kind caring man who only wanted to bring happiness to everyone, and succeeds based off positive reinforcement of his family and friends. Other than brief references to his family's low income household along with the mentions of occasional childhood bullying, there is essentially no conflict. Clash receives support from nearly every soul he meets, becomes mentored by master puppeteer Kermit Love and eventually by the great Jim Henson, and is able to achieve his dreams without fail.

The beauty of this film is that no central conflict is needed to engage the audience. Through the sheer charisma and sweetness of the film's subject Kevin Clash combined with the nostalgic warmth of the childhood landmarks he helped shape (most notably Sesame Street), Marks is able to enchant the audience into an 80 minute lazy river of uninterrupted joy. Kevin Clash comes across as a sincere man; not doing Elmo and other muppets for profit, fame, and fortune, but rather to spread optimism and what is essentially love to the world. Though not the deepest and thought provoking story to tell, Marks presents us with the portrait of a sweet kind man, and the film he has created follows in suit.

Grade: B+

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