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The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland

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The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) needs a new rating. I propose it be NC-5: No one admitted over the age of 5.

“The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland” is rated G, but “suitable for all ages” isn’t really accurate. The kids will love it — Elmo and other characters even encourage the audience members to cheer, applaud and do other things at various times — but for adults, even a 77-minute film like this one will seem long.

Based on the lovable overpriced toy sensation of a few Christmases back, Elmo is a small red monster who loves his blanket. In fact, Blanket is his best friend (which is kind of sad if you think about it, so don’t think about it).

Unfortunately, while Elmo cavorts about Sesame Street one day, his blanket is accidentally tossed down Oscar the Grouch’s trash can, winding up first in Grouchland, then in the greedy hands of Mr. Huxley (Mandy Patinkin), who claims everything he touches as his own and refuses to share. (“Not sharing” is the major sin in this movie.)

Thus Elmo goes on a “Wizard of Oz,” “Alice in Wonderland”-style journey (he even meets a talking caterpillar, like in the latter story, though this one doesn’t smoke hashish) on his way to Huxley’s castle. Along the way he sings songs, makes friends, and is encouraged by the Queen of Trash, played (why not?) by Vanessa Williams.

Meanwhile, all his Sesame Street buddies set out to find him and help him rescue Blanket.

Even cynical people would be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with this film. There are maybe three jokes that are tossed in for the grownups (a movie marquee in Grouchland advertises “Sharon Groan” in “Basically It Stinks”), but the rest is for the kids.

Some movies are great for children and also happen to be entertaining for their parents; this one — like the beloved “Sesame Street” from which its characters are drawn — is just for the kids, pure and simple. Judged on those terms, it’s a fine movie, teaching a simple moral and full of the whimsy and good-natured fun that kids like.

B (; G.)

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