STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $14.98
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 49 minutes
• Previews for other Sesame Street DVDs
• English and Spanish subtitles

The Pitch

Elmo is so awesome that all his best shit could not be confined to one DVD.

The Humans

Kevin Clash, Various Celebrity Guest Stars including Adam Sandler, Jack Black, Destiny’s Child, Goo Goo Dolls and more.

The Nutshell

A robot that must acquire other peoples’ memories to continue functioning visits Sesame Street, and finds a willing provider in the cute and friendly Elmo. What sounds like a solid premise for a Christopher Nolan thriller serves merely as a framing device for the viewer to revisit more of Elmo’s best skits and songs, most of which feature a famous celebrity guest star imparting a lesson about basic morality or mathematics. Colorful educational fun abounds and your kids will watch it over and over.

There’s a character pictured here that can only be operated by having someone else’s hand up its butt. Hint: it’s not the first four you might think.

The Lowdown

As one who last watched Sesame Street regularly at the start of the Reagan Administration, I have been more aware of Elmo as a merchandising behemoth than as a character. His prominence in this area never made much sense to me. Elmo appeared to lack the kind of creative, defining trait that the better Sesame Street characters had; no perverse love of cookies, or cheerful compulsion to count, or antisocial outlook that forced him to reside in a garbage can. Elmo’s thing, as best I could figure, was that he was red. With his blank cheeriness, Elmo seemed more than a little calculated, and entirely generic. I couldn’t figure out exactly how he translated into a global phenomenon.

See Katy Perry? Even the authors of the song “Bootylicous” can cover it up for Elmo.

After watching The Best of Elmo 2 I don’t think my initial impression of the character was wrong. Elmo is entirely calculated and generic. But I no longer say this with derision. To watch Sesame Street now, with adult eyes, is to appreciate it for what it really is: a well made educational children’s show. And the secret to teaching kids is repetition. To this task, a character like Elmo is well suited. With few boutique issues of his own to address, the Sesame Street writers can drop Elmo into as many edu-tainment scenarios as need be, without making the target audience too aware that they are repeating the same lesson once again. If you need to do three skits about addition with Cookie Monster, you can bet every one of them will somehow have to involve cookies. Sub in Elmo the Everyman, and you instantly have more storytelling options available. This doesn’t make Elmo any stronger a character, but I can appreciate how he serves the greater purpose of the show.

The Best of Elmo 2 showcases Elmo’s utility player strengths well. There’s nothing complicated here; the skits feature Elmo engaging in activities such as learning to ride a bike, singing the alphabet song, using his imagination, etc. The celebrity cameos are fun, with most of the stars appearing genuinely excited about being part of the Sesame Street legacy (except for the Goo Goo Dolls, who just seem drunk). The Memory Robot wraparounds hold the whole thing together nicely, and serve the dual-purpose of reinforcing lessons learned. All in all it’s a breezy 45 minutes that should keep your children engaged through the inevitable repeat viewings, and unobtrusive enough to not drive you nuts during them. 

It was considered a real “get” for Diane Sawyer when she landed the first post-trial interview with Elmo after he was convicted of murdering his father.

The Package

The picture and sound are very good, as most of the bits presented here are of a recent vintage. Though it’s easy to spot which skits come from the pre-HD era, kids won’t care. Outside of some previews for other Sesame Street DVDs and English/Spanish subtitle options, there are no special features.  

8.0 out of 10