On November 22nd, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fans will get to see their hero, Fred Rogers in a whole new light, from a different perspective, and played by one of America’s most beloved actors, Tom Hanks. A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is not the story I was expecting, so continue reading for my spoiler-free review. Well, mostly spoiler-free. At the very end of this review, after the “credits,” you’ll find one spoiler that isn’t about the story, but is about the movie.
The story is based on Tom Junod’s piece on Fred Rogers for Esquire magazine. Tom Junod is represented in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD by the character Lloyd Vogel (played by Matthew Rhys). Vogel is a hard-hitting investigative reporter who is assigned to write a short piece on Fred Rogers for a series on heroes. A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD tells the story of how Junod and Rogers met and how that story became not a puff piece, but the cover story.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD opens on the set of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and we see Hanks in full Rogers mode. He takes us through the familiar opening of the show – jacket to cardigan; dress shoes to deck shoes. We settle in and Rogers shows us a picture board of doors. He opens the door to show us his friend Vogel and the story begins. What is ostensibly the story of Fred Rogers seems to be more about Vogel (Junod), but we learn everything important about Rogers through his interactions with Vogel.
Hanks portrays Rogers’ kindness without being saccharine . . . a characterization, rather than a caricaturization. One of the most recognizable faces manages to convince us he’s a different most recognizable face. Matthew Rhys and Susan Kelechi Watson play Vogel and his wife, Andrea. As Vogel goes through his experiences with Rogers, Andrea herself has interactions with Rogers. One of the most charming lines is Andrea’s, when she first speaks to Rogers on the phone.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is presented as an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fans of the show will recognize elements of the show throughout the movie. Transition scenes are stop-motion as if we’re in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. There’s a video showing how magazines are made. And so much more. Enjoy the treasures.
My favorite scene in the movie takes place in a Chinese restaurant. Vogel and Rogers have a moment of silence and the geniuses who made the film create a perfect Mr. Rogers moment. I won’t say more than that. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. There is an Easter egg in this scene. The other restaurant patrons in the scene are people from Fred Rogers’ life, including his wife, Joanne.
Marielle Heller’s A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is a wonderful movie. This is a movie for grown-ups and fans of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. While there are scenes children will enjoy, for the most part the story will be over their heads. For more family friendly movie news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagram, twitter and “like” our facebook page too.
Spoiler Alert – Stop scrolling at this picture of the puppet residents of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood if you don’t want to know, but come back after you’ve seen A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD to learn where the truth of the movie lies.