Directed by Constance Marks. Starring Elmo, Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheryl Henson. 76 mins.
Rating: Three and a half/Five
In cinemas now
SWEET, UPLIFIFTING DOC ABOUT THE CREATOR OF ELMO IS A WARM LABOUR OF LOVE
As you know, Elmo loves you. But you might not know that Kevin Clash loves you too. The creator of Elmo, Clash is soft-spoken, mild-mannered, extremely kind and deeply talented – and is the probably most famous person you’ve never heard of. Despite Elmo being an international phenomenon (do doo de do do), Clash remained an unrecognizable face, happy just to be the brain and heart behind (and hand inside of) this fluffy, high-pitched, international symbol for love and hugs.
But not anymore. This utterly charming documentary uses wonderful archive footage and interviews with Clash, Frank Oz, Whoopi Goldberg (who also narrates) and more, exploring how Clash figured out how to get to Sesame Street. As a child, Clash’s love of puppetry and The Muppets and his unwavering determination to someday be a puppeteer survived not only schoolyard bullying but the mangling of his parents clothes in the search for the perfect fabric. As his passion led him from local shows to roles on Captain Kangaroo and The Great Space Rollercoaster, he finally got the call he had been waiting for: the legendary Jim Henson. The rest, as they say, is History. (Brought to you by the letter H, today’s Letter of the Day!)
The story is delightful and sweet, with scenes of Clash using Elmo to brighten the lives of Make-a-Wish children demonstrating the power there is to be found in pure, unadulterated, childlike love.
However as documentary about Clash, not Elmo, the film feels a touch too slight. Director Constance Marks skips over the darker aspects of Clash’s life, such as the effect Elmo’s gruelling schedule had on his family. Clash’s teenage daughter was forced to write to him, begging to spend some time with her in the three years before she went to college, but neither she nor Clash’s wife are interviewed, and the tough questions remain unasked. But as it is, Being Elmo is as fluffy, upbeat and upbeat as their central puppet character. Elmo loves being Elmo, and you will too.