Won’t You Be My Neighbor (Documentary) – A Nice Reminder of His Show

Rating (3 out of 5)

For someone who grew up with Mr. Rogers, it was fascinating to see how the show started and grew.  I don’t know if I was aware as a child of the subjects he covered and how he addressed really serious issues of the day.

Subject:  A brief biography on Fred Roger’s TV career.

What I Liked: I watched Mr. Rogers as a child and smiled as they showed parts of the show.  As everyone else did during that day and age, when they were only 4 channels, I watched Mr. Rogers and had flashbacks as the characters from the show appeared on screen.  As happens to all of us, you stop watching Mr. Rogers pretty early in our childhood, so I don’t know if I noticed the subjects he addressed.  He addressed subjects that parents have a hard time talking to kids about, divorce, death, war, etc.   Also, it is alway fun to see behind the curtains of a show.

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There was a cut of him talking with a young child about his pet dying.  Mr. Rogers talked to him through a hand puppet.  It was riveting to see how the child connected with the puppet even though it was obvious that Mr. Rogers was talking through a hand puppet.  It demonstrated how Mr. Rogers had a special ability to connect with children.  This paired with being an innovator to understand that TV would be a mechanism to reach children.

The history of his show and how it worked through some very difficult days.  The documentary showed how he turned the news of the day into a simple parable for children to understand told through puppets like King Friday the XIII ; inspirational.  The documentary continued to show how he impacted TV and public broadcasting, including congressional hearings where he was testifying to get some small appropriation for PBS.

What I Didn’t Like:  They share a little about Fred Rogers as a person, through interviews with his wife, sons, and friends.  The film explored Mr. Roger’s TV career but but not what made Mr. Rogers.  Why did he feel like he needed to help with kids.  They hint at a reason but don’t get into the details.

In passing through drafts of this critique I struggled with what to write.  Documentaries seem like they are a different compared to a fictional movie.  Usually they are about subjects you know little know and dig deeper.  The point though of a documentary and a movie is relatively the same, to communicate some emotion in the audience.  In this case I felt more educated about Mr. Rogers TV career, but there wasn’t an emotional draw for me to the film, which I think was what was missing.

The movie felt rushed.  When the movie addressed how Fred felt or reacted when Fox News attacked his show and people attacked him.  At an hour and thirty four minutes, they had the time to go a bit further into some areas.

Conclusion:  It was an interesting history of the Mr. Roger’s show but don’t know if I would rush to go see this documentary.  If you grew up with Mr. Rogers it is interesting, but the movie fails to truly connect you with his passion

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