June 08, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor? is in theaters on June 8th, 2018.

Although entertainment today is in the middle of a golden age, with unprecedent quality for our movies and tv shows all available at our fingertips, it’s also started to place an emphasis on complexity and realism. Yet what our entertainment thrives on today is the absolute opposite of what made Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood such a hit. That simplicity, kindness, and care make a simple show about a man talking to children or playing with puppets one of the most popular shows on television. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a documentary about Mr. Rogers’ life. But it’s so much more than that, it’s a positive message in a world that feels so much less simple than when we had Mr. Roger’s in our lives.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? explores the life and career of Mr. Fred Rogers, the star and creator of the children’s TV show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood which captured the hearts and minds of generations of Americans during its 31-season run. Mr. Rogers made his fame not with flashy gimmicks or a high budget, but instead by playing things simple. The show featured simple sketches with Mr. Rogers and a few recurring characters and a puppet show with puppets all played by Mr. Rogers himself. The documentary shows, however, that Mr. Rogers was able to connect with kids by reaching out to them through the lens of a child. He didn’t talk down to them and he played with the imagination of children. While the movie tackles some of the big questions that circulate about the showrunner, like “was he gay?” and “did he have tattoos from his time in the military?”, it isn’t a flashy documentary that pulls the rug out from underneath us. In fact, the premise of the film is that Mr. Rogers is exactly who he was portrayed to be. It catalogs his staunch defense of public broadcasting, his loving relationship with his family and coworkers, and his beliefs for a better world.

Exploring America’s most wholesome celebrity doesn’t make the most riveting of entertainment. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is itself a simplistic film. There are no shocks and it doesn’t really show us anything we weren’t expecting. But it understands that the point of the film is more about the journey than the conclusion. It’s a lighthearted, easy watch. For those who grew up with Mr. Rogers, it’s a nostalgic journey. For those who didn’t, it’s a way to see the world how we did as children. It brings back positivity and kindness. The most interesting part of this documentary isn’t the story, but the message.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Johnny Johnny (Senior Contributor) was born and raised in San Diego. He's been a fan of films the majority of his life. He enjoys the feeling it invokes and the power it has to take you to another place.
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