Mr. Rogers Visits a Cinema Near You

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” –Fred Rogers

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the movie about the children’s television host Fred Rogers starring Tom Hanks, was released yesterday. It is at the top of my must-see list and I’m hoping to get to the theater over Thanksgiving weekend to catch Mr. Hanks’ performance.

A description of the movie in a nutshell notes, “A journalist’s life is enriched by friendship when he takes on an assignment profiling Fred Rogers. Based on the real-life friendship between journalist Tom Junod and television star Fred Rogers.”

Wikipedia adds, “Notable cameos in the film include Rogers’ wife Joanne, Mr. McFeely actor David Newell, Family Communications head Bill Isler, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood producer Margy Whitmer, who appear as customers in a restaurant that Rogers and Lloyd meet in; Fred Rogers makes an uncredited appearance in archive footage of his show during the ending credits, singing the song “You’ve Got To Do It.”

It appeals to me that they took up the telling of the story through the cynical eyes of the Esquire journalist who would become Fred Rogers’ friend.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” —Fred Rogers

My children watched Mr. Rogers when they were young. It was his gentle nature that was particularly intriguing to very little ones who had not entered the world of video games and were drawn to the simplicity of the show with the hand puppets, choo-choo train, and the gentle nature of the man in the sweater. Some might say it was milquetoast. Not to our little toddlers.

And not to this mom.

I truly believe I have come to appreciate Mr. Rogers more the older I become. In an ever increasing political world, I need his kindness, his humble nature, and his quiet ways of teaching goodness.

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” —Fred Rogers

If you’re worried that a movie about Mr. Rogers could be boring, the reviews have been good, and the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 96 percent rating. Not bad for a pastor who hosted a children’s television show.

Here are a handful of reviews….

“The movie bets on goodness, and wins.” Full review. Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

“Many a movie will make you laugh or cry or think. But very few make you want to be a better person.” Full review. Paul Asay, Plugged In

“This drama is a poignant, powerful tribute to the man who’s embodied kindness and love to children and adults for four decades, thanks to Hanks’ fabulous performance.” Full review. Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media

“If most viewers consider it a no-brainer that Hollywood’s nicest actor, for whom wholesomeness is a brand, would play Mr. Rogers, they’d be mistaken to think his performance is technically easy.” Full review. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

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