DOCUMENTARY "Jim Henson Idea Man"

WHERE Disney+

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ron Howard tells the icon's story in “Jim Henson Idea Man,” a documentary about the Muppets creator.

The movie takes a familiar, behind-the-scenes approach to charting Henson's rise from his small-town Mississippi roots, through the earliest iterations of Kermit and other beloved figures, into the creation of “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show,” and the '80s fantasies “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth.”

Howard incorporates moments that have become part of the cultural lexicon, such as Kermit singing “Rainbow Connection,” to others that prove to be quite unexpected, such as an early “Muppet Show” pilot subtitled “Sex and Violence.”

Interview subjects in the Disney+ production include Henson's longtime collaborator Frank Oz, an icon in his own right, several others who worked closely with Henson throughout the years, including his children, and more.

MY SAY It's a cliché to point to a famous person and to say that they belong on the Mount Rushmore of their particular industry, but there's hardly a better way to convey the impact Henson has had on  children's television and popular entertainment.

That proves no less true today, decades after his death at the age of 53 in 1990. The impact can be seen everywhere, from the latest technological advances that owe their work to his puppeteering innovations, to the abundance of programs that educate younger viewers without condescending to them, not to mention the continually thriving current iterations of the Muppets and “Sesame Street.”

But most everyone going into “Jim Henson Idea Man” knows this already. These are not breathtaking revelations.

The expected nostalgic touches have their impact, of course. It's impossible not to be moved by scenes of children being utterly entranced by a “Sesame Street” character. The old clips from “The Muppet Show” and the movies retain every bit of their zany, comic impact.

Sometimes, the movie feels like it's adhering to a template for a show biz documentary. But Howard, working with the writer Mark Monroe, finds a deeper level of drama and sustained interest when he tries to get at an understanding of who Henson was beyond the screen.

This portrait turns on the dichotomy between the artistic talent who sought to push himself in new experimental directions and the world-famous celebrity, who oversaw a business empire and all  the fundamentally restrictive requirements that came with it.

Howard's innate understanding of movie production helps draw this out, as he and his writer smartly emphasize the elaborate construction of the Muppet world, the offbeat leanings in many of the segments on “Sesame Street,” and the ways in which Henson pushed technological boundaries on “The Dark Crystal.”

This is set against an exhaustive and exhausting rundown of everything Henson had going on at his busiest work period, including the demands of operating multiple headquarters, managing branding campaigns and more, while also trying to be a husband and a father of five who would be present as much as possible.

You leave the movie with a better understanding of this monumental figure, while also feeling like he's still something of an enigma. And that's as it should be.

BOTTOM LINE It's more than a trip down memory lane.

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