Saturday, December 7, 2019

[Review] A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Is there anything more wholesome than Tom Hanks playing Mr. Rogers?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood presents an appropriately charming portrayal of the beloved icon, and it’s a slightly disappointing shame that the plot doesn’t focus more on him.

The story begins with Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a cynical journalist who’s assigned to interview and write a profile on Fred Rogers himself, and the guy begins to gain  a new perspective on life. 

Just like the long-running series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, this film is simple and elegant and it moves at a relaxing pace. There are some nifty visual sequences that recreate the miniature scale city views from the show, and they add a really nice touch. The film is based on a personal Esquire article, so a big chunk of the plot’s middle section covers Lloyd’s strained relationship with his father (played by Chris Cooper), and oftentimes it comes off as unsatisfying melodrama. So much time is spent on it that, at a certain point, you might find yourself asking Where the heck is Mister Rogers?

Thankfully, Tom Hanks’ terrific performance makes it all worthwhile. The film is pleasantly delightful every second he’s on the screen. He’s immensely warm and watchable. Soft spoken and gentle. Hanks embodies the compassion, empathy, and understanding that Fred Rogers became so well-known for. You feel like he’d be super nice to you. You feel like you’re special. You feel like you matter. Whenever he’s not in the screen, his presence is sorely missed.

Commendably, the film provides some important messages and great Mister Roger-isms, as well as a hand-puppet-ful of very moving moments, and a really great final image. I just wish they would have spent more time in Mister Rogers’ actual neighborhood. 

( 7.5/10 )

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