WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
(director: Morgan Neville; cinematographer: Graham Willoughby; editors: Jeff Malmberg/Aaron Wickenden; music: Jonathan Kirkscey; cast: Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers, John Rogers, Jim Rogers, George Wirth, François Clemmons, David Newell, Joe Negri, Jeff Erlanger; Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Caryn Capotosto/Nicholas Ma/Morgan Neville; Focus Features; 2018)
“The documentary was a pure joy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Morgan Neville (“They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead”/”20 Feet from Stardom“) directs with love and admiration this gentle biopic on the iconic, cardigan-wearing, Fred Rogers, who hosted a wonderful children’s TV show on public television from 1967 until the early 2000s called “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The nice guy ordained Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh had a great rapport with children and on the simple TV set, with hardly any props, became an unlikely star by doing what he felt was important–telling all children sincerely “you don’t have to do anything sensational to be loved.” The soft-spoken Rogers died in 2003, and the only criticism he received in his lifetime was baseless. It came from either misguided homophobes who accused him of being too tolerant to gays and some right-wing media folks who falsely accuse him of coddling and calling special an entire generation of Millennials. But there were no personal scandals and his kindness was shown to be both on and off the air, as attested to by his lovely wife Joanne and two grown sons Jim and John. It was amazing to see such a genuinely sweet person as a TV star, who cared about others, raised his voice against bigotry, was so great in his job and in conveying the importance of parents letting their children find a way to achieve self-worth. It makes you wonder why there are not more men like him as role models in the entertainment field and why those in the commercial TV industry don’t make a better effort to eliminate violent TV shows for children and give them more educational fare–ones where they do not target the kids as future consumers. The documentary was a pure joy. The universal message ascribed to Mr. Rogers comes from his heart, that clearly says “Love is at the root of everything…. Love or the lack of it.”
REVIEWED ON 1/1/2019 GRADE: A https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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