4 out of 5 stars (one of the best of the year)
I didn’t grow up loving Mister Rogers. While his soothing voice and quiet demeanor lured my younger self to sleep, I have since grown to appreciate Rogers for addressing real-world topics with kids rather than talking down to them. Similarly, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood won’t interest kids, but their parents will find an honest yet hopeful drama that, like the man himself, reminds us to keep a positive outlook and see the good in others and ourselves.
Jaded investigative journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) has spent his life angry over the misdeeds of his father (Chris Cooper) and developed a cynical attitude that is causing problems in his marriage and the workplace. That cynicism is challenged when his editor assigns him to write a blurb on Pittsburgh icon Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), the only man who will sit down with him. While Rogers’ childlike optimism initially rattles Lloyd, their interactions lead him to reassess his life and strive to be a better husband, father, and man to those around him.
I joyfully cried through most of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Playing Mister Rogers would prove daunting for anyone, but Tom Hanks perfectly embodies Rogers’ positivity and warmth. Rhys and Cooper are also strong, and flashes of humor keep the film from becoming depressing. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood reminds us all of the importance of being decent human beings to each other and accepting that everyone has good and bad sides that make us who we are. I can’t think of a better message to enter the new decade with, nor a better film to preach it.
While a perplexingly trippy James and the Giant Peach–esque dream sequence and an overlong final shot prevent a higher rating, A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood is a well-acted, optimistic outing that will leave a smile on your face, a tear in your eye, and a warm feeling in your heart. See it, and stay through the credits to see a clip from the real man himself.
Rated PG for Some Strong Thematic Material, A Brief Fight, and Some Mild Language