STUDIO: Sesame Workshop

MSRP: $14.98


45 Minutes


  • Classic Segment

The Pitch

Puppets teach you about bugs and numbers, and then Elmo makes you glad you don’t have kids.

The Humans

Big Bird, Elmo, Bert, Ernie, and the brave souls fisting them.


I’m kind of at a loss at where to begin talking about this disc. It’s a collection of Sesame Street bits about bugs and it has lots of Elmo. Elmo and bugs freak me the hell out, and Sesame Street exists. That’s about as much as I can say. This is not for me, small children and I just have different taste in entertainment. I love puppets, but I can count to three already. Sesame Street is completely necessary and a fantastic program, for developing children. I could spend the next few paragraphs smugly inserting obscure jokes and spraying nostalgic hipster love all over Sesame Street. But it’s a children’s show about learning and bright colors and I’m just not that cold hearted, plus anyone nostalgic for Elmo needs to climb back into their mother and try again. Nah, instead I watched this with the obsessive intensity of the most lonely of message board poster. I freeze framed and compared it to obscure foreign films, found the super secret Christopher Doyle homage, I counted the number of blatant steals from Gasper Noe (7), and I put way too much time and effort into something stupid.

A lot of people think this scene where Jenny McCarthy talks about her relationship
with Jim Carrey is an homage to David Lynch’s Rabbits

After a quick title card, the film starts with Elmo and his burning need to hug a butterfly and you can tell from the opening shot just how intense this desire is. In a direct reference to Annie Hall, Elmo address the camera and speaks to the viewer. The performance is fantastic, childlike and annoying. Adding layers on top of layers, Elmo is played by a puppet here, and it makes a great statement on the consumerism inherent in modern children’s television. Puppet Elmo speaks in an almost Mamet like rhythm for the rest of the film, dropping pronouns and repeating his need to ‘hug and kiss (the) butterfly’, drawing the viewer into the strange surreal world Elmo is projecting around himself. Elmo chases the butterfly until he is distracted by a small child who tells him some catapillers turn into butterflies. This is information overload for Elmo and he can’t take it. Elmo goes into a hysterical giggle fit, showing us the dark side of Elmo that is constantly trying to break though. Although the film eschews conventional violence it doesn’t hesitate to bring us into the violent world inside the characters. In the short teaser, Elmo shows his range (2 months-3 years old) and demonstrates exactly why he was the best selling toy of 1996.

It’s pretty easy to spot the Cronenberg references.

After spending a few minutes with Elmo the film suddenly shifts us to Sesame Street and it’s many inhabitants. Here the film takes on an Altmanesque tone and shifts us from character to seemingly unrelated character, showing us the people and furry puppets that make up such a unique geographical location. Only later do we see the connections between puppets, usually numbers or sometimes colors, and begin to fully understand the complex puzzle laid before us. Oscar (The Grouch) is angry and loves being miserable, but he also hates love. The resolution to his journey to find out how many bugs are in the jar is, excuse the pun, jarring. It really shows the pain someone so grouchy can truly go through just to count to three. Big Bird is pretty much playing Duvall in Colors here, but he pulls it off nicely. He spends most of the film patrolling the street and making sure people understand basic math and that some things are not like others, but he does get a moment to shine in a great (and even more Altmanesque) musical number toward the end. I wouldn’t say he’s as good here as he was in Follow That Bird, but it’s a decent supporting turn for him. Sadly, Mr. Cooper died prior to the filming of his scenes, so they gave his scene to a bad impression of Kenan Thompson who does post-modern performance art about the difference between near and far. I have to admit, the fake Kenan felt like a reject from a Cronenberg movie whenever he shared screen time with the more seasoned puppets. But, human or humanoid shaped fabric with a hand stuck up the ass, the whole cast in this section of the film works toward making the film feel authentic. Sesame Street feels lived in and it feels like there is a real history there.

Molly Shannon literally poops out the Oscar she is bound to get for her risky performance

In one of the many references to Wong Kar-Wai, the film steals structure wholesale from Chungking Express. After spending some time with the residents of Sesame Street, we go back to Elmo and his fight to kiss and hug a butterfly. Elmo has been holding himself up in his apartment, counting and trying to figure out how bugs get from place to place. This section is stuffed with references for the quick eyed film geek. Some of the objects in Elmo’s apartment are yellow just like some of the things in Tony Leung’s apartment in Chungking Express. Kermit The Frog was also on The Muppets. At one point Jenny McCarthy shows up, and she was wearing a t-shirt just like she was in Scary Movie 3 (or Scream 3, I can’t tell the difference). This is the more somber half of the piece, but they still awkwardly shoved in as many Tarantinoesque references to other movies and Sesame Street itself in as they could. It’s not quite as masturbatory as that one movie Pauly Shore made where he died, but the Elmo section does get a little precious. It’s a fitting end, if a little much by the time the credits run by. A lot of it works though, the editing in this section is much riskier and almost abstract by the end. But it all fits together into one big puzzle. I wouldn’t say I felt like a bug when Elmo told me to flap my arms like one, but I did feel something. Maybe it was the way he said “Elmo love bugs!” but I sort of felt like the creepy spazz really (does) love bugs. A lot.

Giving Maria a retarded brother was a hard sell to fans at first,
but Mr. Noodle holds his own in this scene.

Some people may find the Levyesque humor of people being mistaken for other people more entertaining than the Fuquaesque drama of the Sesame Streets, but this is pretty much what people mean when they say fun for all ages. It’s easy to get sucked into the drama and kids love puppets and colors. After watching the film I asked my niece how many four was, because the film only told us how many three bugs were, and she said it was this many. Although, (it’s not what you think) supports her theory, but I think I’ll wait for the sequel or the viral website hidden in the teaser to find out.

The Package

It’ll do until the Criterion hits, but it’s a shame this isn’t in HD. As it stands though, the transfer is great and the extra where PBS wants money is really worth your time.

4 out of 10

The much talked about showdown. It wasn’t what we were hoping, but the two acting greats
shared a fantastic moment. And it’s always great to see Chucky get some work.