Jim Henson: Idea Man Review

Ron Howard’s documentary on Jim Henson’s life is a bit surface level but a beautiful look at one of the 20th Century’s most innovative minds.

Last Updated on June 3, 2024

PLOT: Jim Henson: Idea Man takes us into the mind of this singular creative visionary, from his early years puppeteering on local television to the worldwide success of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and beyond. Featuring unprecedented access to Jim’s personal archives, Howard brings us a fascinating and insightful look at a complex man whose boundless imagination inspired the world. 

REVIEW: It’s hard to properly quantify the importance of someone like Jim Henson. The value of education is obvious but the ability to make it fun for kids is a tough nut to crack. Whether it’s through Sesame Street or The Muppets, Henson’s work has taught generations. That’s not to mention the emotional maturity brought on by films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. So it’s well overdue that we’re treated to a documentary, lovingly portraying one of the most remarkable minds in Hollywood.

Utilizing archive footage as well as brand new interviews with his family members and countless colleagues, Jim Henson: Idea Man gives the audience a chance to learn a little more about the man who voiced Kermit (amongst many other things). From his desire to simply create and all the forms which that took. It’s easy to see how big his properties have become but the journey getting there is fascinating. Education is simply an afterthought to Henson, with his primary goal being one of creative fulfillment.

Jim Henson: Idea Man

Henson proved to be an enigma in many ways. While most creative types are often ignorant to the cost at hand, Henson always kept an eye on “the almighty dollar.” He knew that without funding, they would be nowhere, and even kept a mural in the office to remind others. His approach has allowed the Muppets Studio to persevere for decades. The story is told in a biographical sense, with various collaborators discussing their time with the man. Directed by Ron Howard, there’s a command of the narrative that only comes with years of experience. As a video editor, it’s hard not to appreciate all they went through to liven up a still image.

I’d argue the only thing really missing is the full picture of what made Henson human. They allude to various transgressions he made, especially in regards to his marriage, but it’s really glossed over. Henson’s detachment from his marriage seemed like a massive shift in his creative endeavors. He went from creating this magic with his wife as a partner to pushing her into motherhood and forming those same bonds with others. Heck, one of Jane’s replacements was Frank Oz, who would go on to work in countless classic films. The ripple effect of this one action is massive and doesn’t feel like it’s treated with anything except a loving lens. I would have appreciated a little more truth about the situation.

Muppet Studios in Jim Henson: Idea Man (2024).

One thing that the filmmakers handle wonderfully is the suddenness of Jim’s passing. The narrative is moving along and it feels like Henson’s output will be limitless, only for it to be gone in a flash. The shock is clear amongst his family, who are still reeling from the giant hole Jim left in their lives. Because he was more than just a creative force, he was a guiding light for so many. He had so many ideas and hopes for the future. While no doubt his family and collaborators have done a great job of keeping his spirit alive, it’s hard not to think about what others things he’d have created given a little more time.

I’m not sure we’ll ever get someone like Jim Henson ever again. He was a unique person who pushed creative boundaries. Idea Man is a wonderful look at his life and all of the good he managed in his 53 years on this earth. His family’s involvement means we aren’t really getting any of the ugly side, therefore depleting the narrative of a grounded reality. But this film isn’t interested in getting into of the nitty gritty and is instead focused on showcasing the brilliant work of Mr. Jim Henson. And sometimes in this cynical world, that’s all you need.


jim henson idea man

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/jim-henson-idea-man-review/

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