Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
3 out of 4 stars
"Being Elmo" is a parent's dream of a movie. It features a universally recognizable character almost every child knows well and adores, provides undeniable spiritual uplift and does so in about 80 minutes. Want a virtual babysitter that you might also enjoy? This it is.
Unless you or your offspring are super-duper, heavy-duty Elmo freaks, you've probably never heard of or can remember seeing Kevin Clash. As with most voice actors or puppeteers, Clash generally avoids being filmed as himself while practicing his craft and, in this instance, that makes a lot of sense. Elmo might just be the most identifiable puppet in history and showing the man behind the magic might kill some of the magic even for the most unsuspecting five-year-old.
Raised in a lower middle-class Baltimore suburb, Clash got his start on a low-budget local children's show but immediately exhibited a level of talent that would lead to bigger and better things. A lifelong ardent fan of the puppet craft, Clash was blessed by being the child of parents who encouraged his inquisitive and artistic leanings. It's not hard to imagine that Clash's unconventional and non-macho talents -- in a harder-edged, less open-minded environment -- might have been squashed and/or discouraged.
Exhibiting the brevity and conciseness every critic -- and parent of a child with a short-attention span -- relishes, director Constance Marks and her two writers deliver the meat of Clash's quick-rising climb to fame with blazing efficiency.
Although aided along the way by industry professionals he knew of and doggedly sought out, it's unlikely Clash would have gotten where he is now without a devout and undying passion spearheading his efforts. This is the point where careful and measured parental consoling should kick in. You can make it in any chosen field of endeavor if you have equal levels of talent and drive.
Clash is one of the greatest modern American success stories. He took a hobby that few people engage in and transformed it into a lucrative career. What he's done after "becoming Elmo" is equally impressive. He's taken his gift and spread it to those sharing his dream. That's the true sign of a dedicated artist and humanitarian. (Submarine Deluxe)