Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story - Review

This documentary chronicles the life and times of one of television's most beloved yet unsung heroes of all time. Still going strong as the 8 feet tall, kid-brained icon despite his noticeable hunch and ever advancing age, Spinney comes across as a genuinely warm man who loves to travel and still see the bright side in life. Him and his wife wisely kept a large collection of home movies and cartoon doodles, which the makers were permitted to use to wonderfully flesh out the proceedings and give us a taste of the Jim Henson era. The film sadly underdevelops Spinney's 2nd influential role as Oscar the Grouch, the yang to Sesame Street's yin and a character that would most likely not be present if the show was created in today's environment. However, the makers did this both to keep focus on the yellow bird's impact on pop culture and how Big Bird and Spinney are practically one and the same; a distressing road story at a college campus helps underline this fact solidly. Though I was really moved by the film and often tearing up (the funeral of Jim Henson and Spinney's role in it is utterly devastating), I have to admit that it does seem to deliberate play with the viewer's emotions a bit. The musical score is so incredibly syrupy throughout the entire picture, I felt I needed a large order of pancakes to counterbalance it all. Additionally, the makers tend to sloppily mess up Spinney's rich history in the editing: his high school days are far removed from the section about his childhood, they explain how he operates the cumbersome costume way too late, the part about Jim Henson's death feels anticlimatic, and it just ends on a heartwarming yet odd final note. Nevertheless, I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY is a beautiful look at a man who helped make the world a better place to live in.


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