A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood (or Neighborhood, in the US) centres around Fred Rogers – best known on TV as “Mr Rogers” (Tom Hanks), a man who dominated US TV from 1968 – and for many years after – with the titular TV show. However, his shows biggest popularity were before my time, and never came to the UK even after his name did, so I only knew of him through movie references, such as in The Breakfast Club, when John Bender mocks Bryan Johnson that his mum married the man.
Before watching this, I didn’t look up any additional information, but I get that Rogers was a very clean-cut character in his older years who’d talk to children in the same way adults did on BBC1’s Play School in the UK. So, that’s a point of reference, I guess. They had stories behind various-shaped windows, while Mr Rogers has a picture board in order to introduce those.
However, this doesn’t just copy the original show’s style to recreate one whole programme, but as to introduce the story we’re wtaching here, in which looks at the friendship between Rogers and a journalist by the name of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys – Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle), who’s tasked with writing a short piece about the man.
If you know as little about Rogers as I do, then we get a sense that Rogers is a softly-spoken, whilst also being quite effeminate in nature. Along the way, Lloyd struggles to deal with his father Jerry’s (Chris Cooper) wayward ways, and while Hanks puts on a great turn as Rogers, it’s Rhys who’s the shining light in this. In fact, it’s more his film than Hanks’. It’s also quite a bizarre film at times, and nothing like I was expecting.
I wasn’t sure when exactly A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood was set, initially thinking it could be the ’80s, as Mr Rogers is playing videotapes, and everyone has very basic computers. However, the eventual article “Can You Say … Hero?”, from journalist Tom Junod – on whom Lloyd Vogel is based, was published in 1998, so that puts the film around 1997/98. While watching this, it did seem set earlier, though, because of the fact that while Rogers’ programme ran from 1968 to 2001, the original set looked intentionally quite dated, especially with the colours, the design and the fact Fred was still using videotapes.
However, I later learned from the extras that Fred wanted to keep the set the same throughout because his aim is to entertain children, and children don’t like change. That said, I’m an adult and I’ve never liked change, either.
Overall, I hadn’t initially planned on checking this out, given my lack of knowledge of Rogers but I was glad I did. Hence, if you’re in the same position as me, then definitely give it a spin as it’s a very engaging watch.
In addition, the end credits also feature a short piece of one of Fred Rogers’ programmes, but I’ll also mention one thing just before the credits which I’ll put behind a spoiler header, just in case:
The film looks great as you’d expect from a modern release, while using Super 16 cameras from time to time to give the period look.
The extras are as follows:
- Deleted and Extended scenes (16:45): There’s eight of them, here, and while they wouldn’t necessarily need to be reincluded in the film – since 109 minutes is enough for a running time, it’s good to see them to flesh out certain plot aspects.
- Blooper Reel (1:38): Does exactly what it says on the tin, showing Hanks getting stuck in his jumper.
- Everybody’s Neighbour: Fred and Tom (10:29): Listed in the menu as ‘Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers’, key cast and crew members (including Hanks) talk about how Hanks came to play the role of Fred.
- The People Who Make a Neighbourhood (The Making Of) (15:23): Bringing the show back together, including using the original studio, but recreating the set basd on either original items or rewatching old episodes.
- Dreaming Big, Building Small: The Puppets and Miniatures (8:37): Further content on the immense amount of attention to detail paid to the film’s design.
- Everyone Makes Mistakes (2:42): Listed in the menu as “Daniel Tiger Explains: Practice Makes Perfect”, Daniel Tiger talks us through making mistakes, since his Fred has trouble putting a tent up, and he wanted it left in the show because it shows to children how not everything goes to plan.
- Audio commentary: from director Marielle Heller and director of photography Jody Lee Lipes
The main menu mixes stills of the cast with a short piece of the main theme. There are subtitles in several languages listed below, and 16 chapters, although it could use a few more.
Running time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Released: June 8th 2020
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio: English, Spanish; DTS 5.1: Russian
Subtitles: English SDH, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Ukranian
Widescreen: 1.85:1 (ARRIRAW (1080p/24), Super 16)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Marielle Heller
Producers: Youree Henley, Leah Holzer, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub
Screenplay: Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster
Based on the article by Tom Junod (“Can You Say… Hero?”)
Music: Nate Heller
Fred Rogers: Tom Hanks
Lloyd Vogel: Matthew Rhys
Jerry Vogel: Chris Cooper
Andrea Vogel: Susan Kelechi Watson
Joanne Rogers: Maryann Plunkett
Bill Isler: Enrico Colantoni
Dorothy: Wendy Makkena
Lorraine: Tammy Blanchard
Todd: Noah Harpster
Margy: Carmen Cusack
First AD: Kelley Davis
Ellen: Christine Lahti
Lady Aberlin: Maddie Corman
Darin Scharf: Kevin L Johnson
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.