From his humble beginnings growing up outside of Baltimore to his life on Sesame Street in New York, the film chronicles how puppeteer Kevin Clash turned his childhood dreams into reality. Directed by Constance Marks, the film makes you want to laugh, cry and even sing the Sesame Street theme song as it unveils the man behind the furry red monster.
The film is light, charming, full of energy and hilarious. Within the first five minutes, the audience was howling with glee as Clash ironically walks by a gigantic Elmo. The documentary keeps an energetic pace as it smartly cuts to interviews, archival footage and artistic renderings. Keeping in touch with our childlike curiosity, viewers catch a glimpse of how a fully realized puppet is born.
At first, it’s a bit weird to see Clash behind Elmo. I mean, would you have expected Tickle Me Elmo’s squeaky, childish laughter to belong to a grown black man? But as the film progresses, there’s the feeling that no one else could ever do what Clash has done with Elmo.
The film not only shows the love Clash has for puppeteering, but also the love and support he’s had from his family, friends and mentors. Through that, there’s a better understanding of exactly what Elmo means, not only to Clash, but also to the kids he performs for and their families.
Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey is a heartwarming tribute to Muppets creator and Clash’s childhood inspiration turned mentor, Jim Henson — without Henson, there would be no Sesame Street, no Elmo, no Clash. It’s touching to see Clash carry on Henson’s legacy as Clash teaches puppeteers both young and old the tricks of the trade.
Clash’s career is full of the love that the three-and-a-half year old monster embodies. But it’s the feeling of nostalgia that will keep audiences entertained and wanting more, even after the film ends.