The latest product from Jim Henson Studios tells the story of Elmo, an unassuming, guileless red fellow who travels to a grouch-populated land in search of his beloved lost blanket, which has been stolen by a greedy tyrant (Mandy Patinkin) who rules Grouchland with an iron fist and a cold heart. This necessitates a series of songs about the value of sharing, believing in oneself, and other assorted topics, as well as scenes of Sesame Street favorites Bert and Ernie breaking the fourth wall and advising children in the audience to participate directly in Elmo's antics. Elmo In Grouchland has little of the anarchic wit or witty subversion that marks the studio's best work, and while there's potential for fish-out-of-water humor—the endlessly cheerful and upbeat Elmo is in the cranky and garbage-strewn world of Grouchland, after all—the film fails to take advantage of its comic possibilities. Even at 73 minutes, Elmo In Grouchland still feels padded, a problem only exacerbated by its unremarkable songs. It's impossible to argue with the film's embrace of altruism and condemnation of greed, and children should enjoy its high spirits and handful of sharp bits, but sitting through Elmo In Grouchland should prove a chore for anyone over 10.
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