(2 1/2 Stars)
I’ll be back, when the day is new
And I’ll have more ideas for you
And you’ll have things you’ll want to talk about
I will, too.
I haven’t seen an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood in 30 years. And yet I still sing that song to myself sometimes. It’s catchy and calming.
It reminds me that the week is about more than responsibility; it’s an opportunity to appreciate my job and enjoy my life.
Mr. Rogers was the greatest and most beloved children’s entertainer of our lifetime. He deserves a magnificent film to honor him.
And he got it….last year. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is an informative and emotional documentary. It helped us understand the skinny Presbyterian minister who became America’s most unlikely TV star.
“A Beautiful Day is the Neighborhood” is not nearly as good.
First off: “Beautiful Day” is NOT about Mr. Rogers. It’s a semi-effective family drama about Lloyd Vogel, a columnist for Esquire magazine.
It’s 1998, and Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is having a bit of a tough time. His anger issues and unhappiness are affecting his personal life and his professional life.
He just had his first son, and parenthood is bringing his long-festering daddy issues to the surface. It feels like he’s about to blow his chance to be a good husband and parent just like his father did.
Meanwhile, Lloyd’s career is in jeopardy. He writes such caustic columns that people are refusing to be interviewed by him. In fact, the only subject who will let Lloyd do a story about him is Fred Rogers.
Unsurprisingly, Tom Hanks gives a show-stopping performance as Mr. Rogers. The problem is, he doesn’t stop the show nearly enough.
The film’s few effective dramatic scenes involve Mr. Rogers. I like when Lady Aberlin is singing a duet with Daniel the Tiger about anger and the camera pans down to Fred Rogers – expressing Daniel’s anger and catharsis with every note. And the final scene – with Mr. Rogers alone with his piano – is a powerful conclusion.
But this isn’t Mr. Rogers’s movie. It’s the Lloyd Vogel show. And Lloyd is just a jerk; a rather unrelatable jerk. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is basically A Christmas Carol with Mr. Rogers playing the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Mr. Rogers was wonderfully great. Last year’s documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is terrific. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is an average drama, nothing more.