A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Parent Guide
Tom Hanks' portrayal of Mister Rogers is as warm and soothing as a zipped up cardigan on a chilly day.
Parent Movie Review
“What do you do with the mad that you feel?” has been sung to generations of children by the cast of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Lloyd Vogel’s (Matthew Rhys) answer to that question is to punch his estranged father at a family wedding. Showing up at his editor’s office the worse for wear the next morning, he is given an assignment to interview Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) for an Esquire feature issue on heroes. Vogel is incredulous - he does investigative pieces; not profiles of children’s television personalities. Somewhat resentfully, he trundles off to Pittsburgh, where he meets the man whose quiet, gentle kindness will change his life.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not the movie I expected. It is not a biopic of Fred Rogers, it’s not a happy little movie for kids, it’s not a tribute to children’s television. Instead, it uses the format of an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to introduce us to Lloyd Vogel. I was skeptical that setting up a television episode as a narrative frame for a feature film would work, but it does. Mr. Rogers sings his welcome song, puts on his running shoes, shows a picture of his friend, Lloyd, and then plays a clip about magazines on Picture Picture. When the story changes locations, the camera zooms around model buildings as toy cars and planes move from set to set. It sounds odd, but it is strangely effective in moving us from Lloyd’s world to Mr. Rogers’ world.
The journey between their worlds is not just physical. The power of this film comes from Vogel’s voyage into Mr. Rogers’ life. The cynical writer is initially convinced that Fred Rogers can’t really be as good as he seems; he must be hiding something. He is bemused by the man’s all-encompassing empathy, his patient acceptance of others, and his sincere humility. When Mr. Rogers starts to ask Vogel about himself, the writer is first taken aback, then fiercely self-protective, before finally accepting Mr. Rogers’ dictum: “If it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.”
The casting of Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers was widely lauded from the beginning, but I have mixed feelings about the outcome. To be fair, it is extraordinarily difficult to try to portray a famous person on the big screen. The actor has a choice: try to impersonate the subject by imitating their speech patterns and mannerisms, or try to project their personality, even if the little details aren’t completely accurate. Tom Hanks ably projects Fred Rogers’ personality: his portrayal is as warm and soothing as a zipped up cardigan on a chilly day. Unfortunately, his attempt to reproduce Mister Rogers’ idiosyncratic speaking style doesn’t always work and there are occasional jarring reminders that we’re not really watching Mister Rogers; just an impersonation of him.
Given the emotional issues in this movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not a movie for children. Not because of content issues – there are no serious problems here – but because this is a movie aimed at adults. There’s an emotional depth that adults will find deeply moving, not just in the ability of one man to change, but in the power of another man’s example and legacy. In a scene that brought tears to my eyes, a group of youngsters on the subway recognize Mr. Rogers, and spontaneously burst into the TV theme song, “Please won’t you be my neighbor?” Their enthusiasm comes from our mutual good fortune in having Fred Rogers as our neighbor, even if only on a flickering screen.Directed by Marielle Heller. Starring Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, and Susan Kelechi Watson.. Running time: 108 minutes. Theatrical release November 22, 2019. Updated November 18, 2019
Watch the trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Rating & Content Info
Why is A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood rated PG? A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is rated PG by the MPAA for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language
Violence: A main character punches another character and gets hit in turn. He winds up with cuts on his face.
Sexual Content: A husband and wife embrace. There is mention of an adulterous relationship.
Profanity: Two terms of deity and three mild profanities are heard in this movie.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Background characters drink alcohol at a wedding. A man drinks heavily and gets drunk. Two men drink alcohol in the pre-dawn hours.
Page last updated November 18, 2019
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Parents' Guide
This movie developed out of a real magazine article written by Tom Junod in 1998. You can read it here (note: some profanity in the article):
Esquire: Can You Say…Hero?
Tom Junod looks back on his relationship with Mr. Rogers here:
The Atlantic: My Friend Mister Rogers
More about Junod’s article here:
Nieman Storyboard: Can you say…Thanks, and we miss you?
Have you ever met a person whose example influenced you or changed your life in some way? What did they do or what was it about them that affected you? Why? What can you do to help others who need it?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Fred Rogers wrote numerous books to share his gentle approach to life. The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember collects his writings on topics such as love, friendship, respect, and individuality. Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way is filled with advice on handling change in life. Many Ways to Say I Love You: Wisdom for Parents and Children from Mister Rogers is filled with wise counsel for parents as they face the challenges of rearing their youngsters.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was beloved by generations of children. If you want to go behind the scenes, check out Tim Lybarger’s Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History.
If you think the lessons you learned from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood are ageless, you will want to read Melissa Wagner’s Everything I Need to Know I learned from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Fred Rogers’ legacy has inspired further discussion. Amy Hollingsworth has written The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor. After meeting on a television interview, Fred Rogers and Amy Hollingsworth corresponded and delved into his spiritual and philosophical beliefs. Gavin Edwards explores the lasting influence of those beliefs in Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever.
Related home video titles:
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?is a documentary about the life of Fred Rogers. Filled with footage from Mr. Rogers’ life, interviews with those who knew him well, and animated segments about his childhood and inner life, this film gives an in-depth look at a remarkable, gentle man.