THE MOVIE GUY — Kick off the holidays with a Mister Rogers movie

Published 12:02 am Friday, November 22, 2019

I can think of no better way to kick off the holidays than taking the family to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. This loving biography of Mister Rogers simply overflows with love and good will. I defy anyone to come out of this movie without feeling uplifted.

Remember that, should you start to get a little stressed over the next few weeks.

Based on a real magazine article, but mostly fabricated after that entry point, this is the story of a jaded journalist (Matthew Rhys) who is assigned to do a puff piece on Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). He reluctantly agrees to interview the children’s television icon, only to find that Mister Rogers is more interested in finding out how he can help the journalist deal with the problems in his own life.

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It’s a brilliant decision by the screenwriters to make Mister Rogers into a supporting character in this movie, focusing instead on the journalist and how his life is changed by Fred Rogers. I suspect that this movie might have come across as being overly sappy if it had just been a standard biography. By focusing on the man’s work, instead of the man himself, we get to see his true worth without having the film come across as a sycophantic puff piece.

It also helps that the filmmakers cast Tom Hanks in pivotal role. He is one of the few actors who brings a sense of genuine decency to every one of his performances. I can’t think of any other actor who would be more appropriately cast. It also helps that he is talented enough to bring this tricky performance to life. Once again, in the hands of a lesser artist, Mister Rogers could have easily slipped into a caricature of impossible goodness, rather than the flesh-and-blood man we get to meet in this movie.

If there’s a criticism to be made, it could be argued that Rogers’ family deserves to have their stories told, and that the film never really delves into what made Fred Rogers into the man so beloved by children across the world. If you truly need these details, check out the superb documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor.

I will also concede that if you believe that great drama springs out of conflict, you’ll probably find the film to be a bit underwhelming. You shouldn’t be surprised to find that there aren’t many emotional fireworks going off here.

That’s OK by me. There are plenty of other films that are filled with edgy drama—sometimes you just need a break from all that Sturm und Drang. I found this PG-rated film to be utterly charming, filled with superb filmmaking craftsmanship and anchored by two very good acting performances.

In short, I found it to be a feel-good movie that’s the perfect way to kick off the holiday movie season.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are each week in The Port Arthur News and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at