It’s a dull day in the neighborhood, boys and girls.
What a letdown “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” based on the friendship between Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) and jaded journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), turns out to be. This pointless mess rambles all over the place, is saccharine sweet, inordinately predictable, and is bursting with plenty of platitudes about acceptance and understanding that carry a stench of insincerity. The creepy performances, mediocre story, disinterested direction, and horrendous original score turn this into a flop almost as soon as the opening credits begin.
When Lloyd is assigned to write a profile of Mr. Rogers, he is schooled in life lesson of kindness, decency, and empathy from one of America’s most beloved icons. (In other words, a cynical reporter with extreme daddy issues finds Jesus in the form of a kid’s television host). Instead of diving into what makes Fred tick, we are treated to the dullest of the dull moments in Lloyd’s mundane existence.
Hanks is just okay as the soft-spoken Mr. Rogers, and his performance is nothing but an unsettling, serial killer-esque impersonation rather than anything I’d consider awards-worthy. Rhys has the talent to become a breakout star of the big screen, but here he’s so jaded that I just didn’t care.
Director Marielle Heller, coming down from her high last year (she directed one of my favorites of 2018, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) leans on the crutch of nostalgia to excess. It suggests that she has a disconnect with the material, and there are very few personal touches in her filmmaking here. I could not relate to this movie at all, and a story like this needs to be universal in order to succeed.
Those searching for a traditional biopic should prepare to be disappointed. Instead of focusing on the life of Mr. Rogers, the story fixates more on the home life of Vogel. It’s disjointed in the sense that what the movie presents versus what the audience would most like to see is so out of whack.
If you’re looking for a truly inspiring and in-depth look at the life of Mr. Rogers, check out the 2018 documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”