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Review: Being Elmo

A moving portrait of an unheralded artist
By PETER KEOUGH  |  November 15, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars

Just in time for the release of The Muppet Movie on November 25 comes Constance Marks's look at the man behind the pilly-fabric Sesame Street character. It's a moving, incisive portrait of an unheralded artist and a subtle glimpse into issues of race, media, and culture. Kevin Clash was obsessed with puppetry since he was a kid growing up in a tough part of Baltimore, where he had to race through the gang turf between his school and house to watch PBS TV shows like Captain Kangaroo. Those afternoons he discovered a world he wanted to recreate, and he studied the puppets to figure out how to design his own. Mocked by his peers, but supported by his parents, he persevered and ultimately made it to Sesame Street. His biggest success, Elmo, embodies the ebullience and empathy needed to instill an object made of foam rubber and fleece with a soul. You need only watch the effect Clash and Elmo have on a Make-a-Wish child to believe in its magic.

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