If you know anything about us, you know that we love Mister Rogers. So with the movie opening last week, 5 of us from The Character Tree found ourselves at the local multiplex to watch “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” which is inspired by the Esquire Magazine article “Can you say…Hero” by Tom Junod. In it, Junod, describes meeting Fred Rogers and how life changing it was for him. It is a great piece and I highly recommend reading it, but please note that it (the article – not the movie) uses R rated language.
We all liked the movie, although one person thought that it was slow. Now there are a lot of reviews that can tell you about the arc of the movie and what a wonderful job Tom Hanks does (which is true – but is was a bit like watching Forest Gump play Mister Rogers), but I wanted to give my perspective.
First, you are probably wondering if it is appropriate for young children. There are mature subjects discussed like divorce, alienation from a parent, a brief fight and the death of a parent. You know your child best, but certainly expect a lot of discussion afterward.
But I honestly wonder if a child would even enjoy the movie. Frozen, also opening this past weekend, will probably be their choice. Really, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is meant for people who already have a relationship with Mister Rogers. For us, it reminds us of an important relationship we had with a beloved uncle/father figure. The lessons of being kind, empathic and most importantly being present to whomever you are talking to right now! Not waiting for your turn to speak or being distracted by incoming messages. It is about being still in a chaotic world. It is that the messages of our youth are just as important now that we are adults and it our responsibility to work on our own happiness and self-awareness as well as the empathy to both forgive and to ask for forgiveness.
Which leads me to wonder if Mister Rogers Neighborhood would even work in todays culture. Clearly there would have to be some technological updates. Picture Picture would at least have to be replaced by a smart board! My first thoughts are that, no, for most children, it would not work. For example, we have found in making The Character Tree videos that most children respond best when we have lots of things going on, whether it is pictures, short videos, or talking with Grey Squirrel.
I would like to think, however, that Mister Rogers Neighborhood would work today. The special