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Marielle Heller
Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper
Writing Credits:
Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster

Cynical journalist Lloyd Vogel interviews TV host Fred Rogers and finds his assumptions challenged.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Audio Descriptive Service
Czech Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
French Audio Descriptive Service
Hungarian Dolby 5.1
Portuguese Dolby 5.1
Portuguese Audio Descriptive Service
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Chinese Simplified
Chinese Traditional
Brazilian Portuguese
Supplements Subtitles:

109 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 2/18/2020

• Audio Commentary with Director Marielle Heller and Director of Photography Jody Lee Lipes
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• Blooper Reel
• “Tom Hanks As Fred Rogers” Featurette
• “The People Who Make a Neighborhood” Featurette
• “Dreaming Big, Building Small” Featurette
• “Practice Makes Perfect” Featurette
• Previews


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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 16, 2020)

Back in 2018, influential TV host Fred Rogers became the subject of a documentary entitled Won’t You Be My Neighbor. 2019 brought A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. a dramatized look at Rogers’ life – though less directly than the standard biopic.

Set in 1998, magazine writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) gets an assignment to interview Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). Seething due to the sudden return of longtime absentee father Jerry (Chris Cooper), Lloyd’s cynicism makes him less than eager to chat with the perpetually earnest Fred.

Lloyd takes the gig anyway and gets to know Fred. As this relationship develops, Lloyd finds himself at an emotional crossroads.

As I noted at the start, Day doesn’t really present a biography of Rogers. While we gain some insights into his life, Neighbor becomes the more logical place to seek that information, as it goes with a fairly standard documentary approach.

Many assumed Day would bring the same overview, so I feel glad it didn’t, given that Neighbor already walked that ground. Though Day could find a different approach to a Mr. Rogers biopic, it would still feel somewhat redundant.

Based on the true story of journalist Tom Junod, Day offers a view of his life and evolution more than anything else, Some of the movie’s choices can feel a bit trite – especially how it depicts Lloyd as the skeptic – but Lloyd’s journey allows us a stronger view of Fred.

Rather than focus on Fred’s life, we instead get a look at the emotions that surrounded the man. Again, we do learn a little about Rogers’ life and career, but these moments reflect how he impacts Lloyd more than anything else.

As such, Lloyd really acts more as audience surrogate. Let’s face it: Mr. Rogers’ public persona offers a “too good to be true” vibe, a notion acknowledged when Lloyd gets the job and his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) warns him not to ruin her childhood.

Neighborhood offered no signs of Fred as anything other than a wholly admirable figure, and Day continues that trend. However, as played by Hanks, he still seems human – albeit a human whose views feel unconventional to the rest of us.

Day walks a fine line as it depicts Fred’s quirks but also refuses to make fun of him. The movie easily could mock his perpetually sunny disposition and idiosyncratic ways, but it avoids those pitfalls.

Oh, we get the occasional nod toward Fred’s eccentricities, mainly via the lightly snarky comments from the long-suffering crew of the series. Fred operates on his own schedule, and it seems clear that this annoys them, though not enough for them to rebel against their boss, as they admire him too much to get truly aggravated.

Day needs a little of this attitude along with Lloyd’s cynicism. As noted, many view Fred with some skepticism, as though “Mister Rogers” can’t possibly be anything other than a scam, so a totally credulous view of Fred would make it more difficult for the viewer to buy the story.

Hanks offers the appropriate sense of Fred’s generous and inquisitive spirit but doesn’t make the man come across like a naďve simpleton. Fred clearly understands and acknowledges the negativity in the world but he chooses to go a different direction, and Hanks makes these conceits believable.

Though Lloyd’s journey can feel a little sappy and simplistic at times, Day mostly gives that arc a convincing edge. Rhys conveys his character’s conflicted emotions well, and he grounds the piece in a satisfying manner.

Ultimately, Day offers a satisfying character drama. It largely avoids mawkish melodrama to become an engaging emotional journey.

Footnote: some bonus footage appears during the end credits.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Most of the movie went 1.85:1, but whenever the film opted for the perspective of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, it used 1.33:1.

Though the 1.85 material dominated, we found enough 1.33:1 footage to make this a tale of two films in a way. The TV elements looked predictably iffy, as they replicated those intentions appropriately.

This meant the 1.33:1 elements came across with mediocre definition and a standard-def video impression. Colors actually held up better than expected – especially via some peppy reds – but the 1.33:1 material remained lackluster.

The 1.85:1 shots matched expectations as well, in a positive manner. For the most part, sharpness satisfied. Occasional wide shots tended to be a bit iffy, but the majority of the flick demonstrated strong delineation and clarity.

I noticed no shimmering, jaggies or edge enhancement. The image remained clean and lacked any source defects.

Colors felt subdued. The movie preferred a somewhat amber and teal feel and lacked many instances of vibrant hues, though the tones seemed fine within those stylistic choices.

Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows showed appropriate clarity. Overall, this was a positive presentation.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Day, it offered a low-key auditory experience. Sound quality was always good, at least.

Music worked the best, as the score and songs demonstrated nice range and depth. Effects didn’t play a major role, but they seemed acceptably clear and accurate, while speech was distinctive and natural.

The soundscape lacked much to impress. Music dominated, as songs/score came from all around the spectrum.

Effects had less to do, as they focused the realm of general environment. Still, the track did what it needed to do for a film of this sort.

We get a good mix of extras here, and we begin with an audio commentary from director Marielle Heller and director of photography Jody Lee Lipes. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at photography and the replication of the TV show, cast and performances, story, characters and the adaptation of the source, sets and locations, editing, and related topics.

Though a little hyperactive at times, Heller and Lipes manage a pretty good discussion of the film. We get useful notes about the production and learn a fair amount about various choices here.

Eight Deleted & Extended Scenes occupy a total of 16 minutes, 45 seconds. The vast majority fall into the “extended” category, as they offer small additions to existing sequences.

These work fine and become interesting at times, but they don’t add anything notable. The new scenes also fail to bring particularly compelling material.

A Blooper Reel spans one minute, 38 seconds and revolves around Tom Hanks’ struggles with Mr. Rogers’ iconic sweater. That focus makes this compilation more amusing than most of its ilk.

Some featurettes follow, and Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers goes for 10 minutes, 29 seconds. We get notes from Heller, producer Peter Saraf, Fred Rogers’ widow Joanne, former CEO of Mr. Rogers Company Bill Isler, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood performer David Newell, makeup department head Kalaadevi Ananda, hair department head Tony Ward, costume designer Arjun Bhasin, and actors Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys and Susan Kelechi Walton.

The show looks at Fred Rogers and Hanks’ performance as him. Some inevitable happy talk emerges, but we get a good mix of insights.

The People Who Make a Neighborhood runs 15 minutes, 23 seconds and involves Hanks, Heller, Rhys, Watson, Rogers, Saraf, Newell, producers Leah Holzer and Youree Henley, electrician Frank Warninsky, production designer Jade Healey, art director Greg Weimerskirch, Bill Isler’s wife Martha, TV producers Hedda Sharapan and Marcy Whitmer, and actors Chris Cooper, Enrico Colantoni and Maryann Plunkett.

“Make” discusses Heller’s involvement, cast and performances, sets and locations. Like the first featurette, this one mixes fluff and facts to become a decent overview.

Next comes Dreaming Big, Building Small, an eight-minute, 37-second reel with Heller, Watson, Hanks, Henley, Weimarskirch, lead puppet maker Spencer Lott, miniatures unit producer Katrina Whalen, lead modelmaker Peter Erickson, and assistant puppet sculptor Grace Townley-Lott.

Here we learn about the recreated puppets and sets from the TV show and related elements. This becomes a useful little reel.

Finally, Practice Makes Perfect takes up two minutes, 42 seconds with Hanks and Isler. They discuss challenges involved in the Neighborhood opening. This branches from the blooper reel.

The disc opens with ads for Jumanji: The Next Level, Overcomer and Little Women (2019). No trailer for Day appears here.

An intriguing approach to its subject matter, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood manages to create a good drama. It uses Mister Rogers as the entry point to a character journey that works well. The Blu-ray comes with pretty good picture and audio as well as a fairly positive collection of bonus materials. Day delivers an engaging and moving tale.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
3 3:
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