Do we need Tom Hanks in Mr Rogers drag? I’m not sure we do. I watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and I fell in love with the message that Fred Rogers wanted people to understand. The great thing about it is that the documentary is about Mr Rogers himself.
Sometimes you don’t need an entry character to take you into the world of someone. The story of the journalist was a nice side note in the documentary, but here it becomes a framing device that I found annoying.
Visually it is spot on, and there are some nice flourishes, such as the miniatures that provide the travel interludes between places, but I wanted more on Mr Rogers.
An interview I read with the journalist who the journalist character is based on said that the lesson he learned was that writing about someone who was good, like Mr Rogers, was more interesting and worthwhile than writing about the darker elements of life. We have to wade through the muddiness of a fictitious misery to get at the heart of what this movie is supposed to be about … Mr Rogers, and his philosophy.
What felt genuine in the documentary, for me, with the fictional filter, comes across as hokey. Although some have tried to paint Fred in that light, if you really listen to the man and you learn about what he did and what he stood for, you see he was far from that.
If you have only seem Hanks as Mr Roger I urge you to go and check out the real thing. This lands in the same place as the Hendrix biopic with Andre 3000 in it — it felt like it needed to embellish a story that already had enough in it. It’s where The Doors falls flat in places for me. Look at the subjects you are dealing with and then tell me that you really need to add any alien ingredients to the mix. To me it represents a real failure of imagination.