December 9, 2012

Review: Being Elmo

With all of the recent attention that Kevin Clash has gotten as a result of recent sexual allegations, it's probably as good a time as any to review Being Elmo, the documentary about Clash and his path to becoming the puppeteer behind Sesame Street's Elmo. This is one of the few documentaries to detail Clash's life and career, and though there are elements that are missing, overall Being Elmo is a great look into the man that is Kevin Clash.


The documentary is very much focused on two very specific areas of Clash's life: the time leading up to him becoming Elmo and the present day. This makes sense, as very little really needs to be told about Elmo the character's rise into popularity. That much is already very well documented. Indeed, even the parts dealing with Clash's life today are relatively skimpy compared with his early life and career, which strikes me as the correct approach: it's the least covered part of his story, and the clear progression from his first homemade puppet towards his professional start in New York is both a classic American success story and a great case study into the world of professional puppetry.

Where the documentary is a letdown is primarily in the personal life of Clash. Little is spent on his relationship with his wife and his daughter, except in the most cursory fashion. In fact, Clash comes off as an individual who essentially has nothing but his job. The dynamics of how his celebrity and his work has affected both his own children and the relationship with his wife is pretty much nonexistent.

And this is a shame, because it's primarily his personal life now that has drawn Mr. Clash the most attention. Being Elmo, however, ignores most of it, and what it does cover seems to be merely preapproved by him. But, although this documentary is missing what makes him most interesting, it does cover a significant and important aspect of Kevin Clash's life, and fills in the details necessary to understand his current situation. This makes Being Elmo a necessity to watch, with some great details about the puppeteer behind Elmo's early life thrown in to boot.

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