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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Review: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Reliving our childhood with Mr. Rogers in more ways than one

Few children’s television shows accomplish what “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” — which ran from 1968 to 2001 — did. Mr. Rogers was part of the family, beloved by many generations, and one of the few individuals capable of discussing real-life issues with children through his relatable puppet characters and calm demeanor. 

Mr. Rogers’ show was innovative, making it simple enough to be inclusive for everyone. Last year, the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” debuted and delved into the genius of the show, showing how such a simple set could make such an impact for children. 

 He used television as a tool to provide a platform of understanding and safety for preschoolers to deal with their emotions. By starting off every show the same way, changing his shoes and sweater, he created an environment of security. He was original in the way he made what was happening in the neighborhood parallel real-world issues — and his lessons are timeless.

The recently-released film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is a walk down memory lane. It continues the same positive messages Mr. Rogers shared during his lifetime about the confusing emotions we all go through. The film, however, not only captures that same essence, but it also delves deeper into the issues we face as adults, with a focus on the character Lloyd Vogel. 

Lloyd Vogel is based on Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod, who wrote a profile piece on Mr. Rogers in 1998, and it was this article that inspired the film. Throughout the film, Vogel undergoes a family conflict that continues to spiral out of control. Although he does not want to open up to Mr. Rogers about his problems, Mr. Rogers’ approachable demeanor allows Vogel to eventually open up to him. 

Even though the film is not entirely focused on Mr. Rogers, played by Tom Hanks, we still get a clear picture of the kind of person he was. We see through Vogel’s initially critical eyes the small but impactful actions Mr. Rogers does for others. When Vogel mentions to Mr. Rogers how it seems as if everyone is always lining up to tell him their problems, his response is, “isn’t it wonderful the bravery they have.”  

Mr. Rogers was a uniquely humble person who graced television for many years. The film captures the essence of Mr. Rogers and how his show was meant to remind everyone about the importance of their childhood. According to Mr. Rogers, “We are all just children who are trying to deal with our own feelings and identities in the world.” He never lost sight of that notion. 

The film covers many of the issues which Vogel is dealing with, including anger and the death of a loved one. Mr. Rogers shares in the film that “there is no normal life that is free from pain,” which might sound dire, but through his calm and understanding approach, Vogel is able to deal with this heavy reality with more ease. 

His show was so impactful that PBS created the animated series “Daniel the Tiger,” based off a puppet he used in the original show. This puppet was the closest to his actual personality, as mentioned by his wife in the documentary. His positive messages and wisdom still resonate with us today, and PBS is making sure his message continues to be heard by this new generation of children.

Mr. Rogers’ show gave children a way to deal with their feelings in a positive way, but what this film did was take his well-known show and adapt it to resonate more now. The children who have grown up watching Mr. Rogers are all now grown up, but we all still need that gentle reminder of the importance of remembering our childhood. 

Written By: Gabriela Hernandez — arts@theaggie.org


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