Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey Reviews
Kevin Clash is a second-generation Muppeteer - coming in towards the end of the era of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Caroll Spinney, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson and Dave Goelz. But with his dedication and love of the craft, Clash managed to leave an equally large contribution, through such characters as Hoots the Owl, Clifford and, of course, the ubiquitous Elmo.
This documentary, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, follows this rise and features interviews and contributions from Clash, Oz, Bill Barretta, Spinney, Rosie O'Donnell, Fran Brill, Martin P. Robinson and, in archive footage, Henson and Kermit Love.
A heartwarming and uplifting piece of filmmaking, this has the same message that Sesame Street and the Muppet Show have been putting out for decades, at the end of the day - If you believe in yourself, no matter what other people say, you can do whatever it is you want to do, and you'll be happy doing that.
A great documentary.
These are just some of the words that came to mind as I thought of how to describe this documentary. Most documentaries these days seem to want educate about some horrible event or injustice with the requisite call for action. While those kinds of documentaries are very important, it was nice to see one that just makes you feel good. The second I saw this trailer, I knew it was going to be something special and had to see it. Rest assured, it didn't disappoint.
This is the story of Kevin Clash; the amazing man behind Elmo from Sesame Street. It chronicles his life from youth where he discovered his love of puppets; to his big breaks meeting people like the man who created Captain Kangaroo and Jim Henson (the creator of Sesame Street) and how he came about Elmo and the tremendous impact it's had. As you watch the documentary, it becomes clear that Kevin was born to this. As he pursues puppetry you can't help but cheer for him. Along the way I got a glimpse of a world I knew very little about and it was fascinating: how the puppets are built, tricks of the trade, how the puppeteers bring them to life and the really interesting people in the industry.
While this isn't the best documentary I've seen from a technical perspective, the story is what makes this great. It's just really moving (it had me fighting back tears on a number of occasions). It's just incredible to see how these guys (and Kevin specifically) can bring so much joy to children; all with just a piece of cloth. I found it amazing that you'd see Kevin at an event with Elmo. And even though there's a man standing there holding a puppet, you can't help but be drawn to Elmo. There's so much life and personality breathed into it, it's almost like Kevin isn't there. Especially with the children he visits. Someone in the film says with great puppets what you are seeing is the soul of the puppeteer. And after watching this, I'd have to agree. It's really amazing stuff; these guys are magicians in my eyes and under appreciated.
A sense of joy just permeates through this documentary in a way that is very rare. When it was over, I wanted more and didn't want it to end. I think what stuck me the most was something he said that reminded me a bit of a Steve Jobs graduation address that was being circulated after he died. Kevin seems to hit on the same theme and says (I'm paraphrasing here):
"Some people may say, well, you won't make any money doing that... All those things will go away if you focus on what makes you happy".
Kevin Clash is living his dream and this documentary inspires us to do the same. Definitely watch this, you won't regret it.