Investigative journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) has made a career out of finding dirt on people, exposing their secrets and lies. He has grown to be cynical, and is often suspicious of people’s true intentions or motives. However, he has some demons of his own. When he was young, Lloyd’s mother got sick and his father Jerry (Chris Cooper) abandoned her, running off with other women. Lloyd has never forgiven his father, and hasn’t seen him in years. Jerry has never met Lloyd’s wife of 8 years, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), or seen his newborn grandson Gavin. However, in 1999, Lloyd and Jerry finally cross paths at Lloyd’s sister’s latest wedding, and the night ends in a fistfight.
The next morning, Lloyd’s editor, Ellen (Christine Lahti) informs him that Esquire will doing a feature on heroes, and she assigns him one of the profile pieces in hopes of fixing his image. Lloyd is upset about being assigned a puff piece, but he has become known for his exposés, and it’s getting more difficult to find people willing to talk with him. The only person being profiled who is willing to be interviewed by Lloyd is Fred Rogers. Lloyd reluctantly takes the job, but his guard is up the entire time he first speaks with Mr. Rogers. Fred Rogers seems too good to be true—he appears to be the kindest, most caring man, and the investigative journalist in Lloyd suspects he his hiding something. However, no matter how many times Lloyd tries to trip Fred up by asking him a loaded question, Fred always provides a genuine answer. In fact, Fred has a unique ability to change the subject or use awkward pauses to turn the discussion back on Lloyd. But he doesn’t do so to be manipulative, his goal is to help Lloyd confront his demons, issues and deep-seeded anger with his father. And so what starts as a simple profile (and possible exposé) on a childhood hero becomes an introspective look at Lloyd’s own life.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is based on the real-life events/friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. The film is not a straightforward biopic of Fred Rogers. Instead, it uses Mr. Rogers and his friendship with this journalist as a way to explore a deeper and more dramatic story of Kindness, forgiveness and friendship, and overcoming skepticism.
There probably aren’t many adults who aren’t familiar with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and its host. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood takes viewers on a nostalgic trip back to this groundbreaking program. The filmmakers have perfectly re-created the sets, miniatures, and puppets from the original PBS program. The filmmakers also utilize the original model of cameras and original studio, filming the Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood sequences in 4:3 format to give them the familiar look and feel. It really feels like you have been transported back to Fred’s living room for the opening theme song, or to the Land of Make-Believe and King Friday’s magical kingdom. To add to this nostalgic feeling throughout the movie, all scene transitions make use of miniatures like those of Fred’s neighborhood, reflecting the scene’s Pittsburgh and New York City locations.
The casting of the film is fantastic. While Tom Hanks may not look exactly like Fred Rogers, his performance really captures the mannerisms, emotions, and spirit of the man, so much so that he truly transform into Fred Rogers, and you nearly forget that it is Tom Hanks you are watching. Matthew Rhys is also captivating as the complicated Lloyd Vogel, who experiences an emotional transformation over the course of the film, thanks to this loving and caring man who takes an interest in him. And Chris Cooper also delivers a strong performance as the father who is trying to admit to his past mistakes and reconcile with his son before it’s too late.
Sony’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds excellent. In fact, I think the 4:3 scenes look cleaner and more detailed on this Blu-ray than they did when I first saw the film in the theater. I suspect this is due to the filmmaker’s use of the older technology TV cameras for these scenes which were then blown up for the big screen. The audio track provides clear dialogue, and at times provide some nice ambiance and a generally-immersive soundtrack.
The Blu-ray release includes both a Blu-ray and a DVD disc packed in standard HD keepcase with a slipcover, and contains an insert with a code to redeem for an HD Movies Anywhere digital copy of the film. The Blu-ray and DVD discs both include the same assortment of bonus material—8 deleted/extended scenes, a blooper reel, nearly 40-minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes with the cast and crew, and an audio commentary with the filmmakers.
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.85:1
- Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DVS (Descriptive Video Service), Czech Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, French DVS (Descriptive Video Service), Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese DVS (Descriptive Video Service), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, French, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
- Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS (Descriptive Video Service), French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
- HD digital copy redeemable via Movies Anywhere
Digital (Limited Time Offer):
The bonus material can be found on the Blu-ray discs.
- Commentary with Director Marielle Heller and Director of Photography Jody Lee Lipes (1:48:44)
The director and cinematographer provide a fun, interesting and informative commentary throughout the film. They talk about recreating the look of the original series,
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (16:45)
Collection of 8 deleted/extended scenes. Play All, or select from:
- Heroes Must Die (1:02)
At the magazine award ceremony Lloyd tells his friends how he’s going to ask Mark McGwire if he’s juicing.
- You Just Had a Full Interview (:49)
After Fred cuts their interview short, Lloyd asks Bill for more time.
- Mr Rogers’ Archives (2:18)
Lloyd watches clips of Mister Rogers’ show and interviews.
- A Trip To The Hospital (3:39)
Extended footage of Lloyd as Old Rabbit in the Land of Make-Believe and visiting his mother in the hospital.
- Are You Still Feeling Agitated? (1:46)
Lloyd wakes up at the Rogers’ home and has a discussion with Joanne about being agitated. (Takes place after the piano duet.)
- Did You Know About Me? (4:46)
Extended version of scene where Lloyd visits Dorothy while his father is sleeping. The two have a discussion about whether or not she knew about him, his sister and his mom.
- I Asked You For Two Paragraphs (:50)
Extended version of scene where Ellen calls Lloyd about the article, shocked that he turned in a 20-page article about his childhood.
- Mitzi (2:14)
Fred talks about the passing of his dog on his TV show.
- Heroes Must Die (1:02)
- Blooper Reel (1:38)
Tom Hanks has many issues zipping up his cardigan while singing the opening theme song.
- Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers (10:29)
The cast and filmmakers talk about the real Fred Rogers, casting Tom Hanks, and capturing the look, mannerisms and spirit of the iconic man. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director Marielle Heller, producer Peter Saraf, Joanne Rogers (Fred Rogers’ widow), Bill Isler (former CEO of the Mr. Rogers Company), David Newell (“Mr McFeely”), makeup department head Kalaadevi Ananda, hair department head Tony Ward, costume designer Arjun Bhasin, and stars Tom Hanks (“Fred Rogers”), Matthew Rhys (“Lloyd”) and Susan Kelechi Watson (“Andrea”).
- The People Who Make a Neighborhood: The Making Of (15:23)
Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers intros this Picture Picture look at the making of the movie. Topics include the director, the cast, re-creating the sets, filming in Pittsburgh, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director Marielle Heller, producers Leah Holzer, Youree Henley & Peter Saraf, Bill Isler, Joanne Rogers, electrician Frank Warninsky, production designer Jade Healy, art director Greg Weimerskirch, David Newell, Martha Isler (wife of Bill Isler), Margy Whitmer (producer of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), Hedda Sharapan (producer of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), and stars Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper (“Jerry”), Enrico Colantoni (“Bill Isler”), and Maryann Plunkett (“Joanne Rogers”).
- Dreaming Big, Building Small: The Puppets & Miniatures (8:37)
The cast and filmmakers talk about re-creating and working with the iconic puppets, building the miniature models of New York and Pittsburgh for the transition scenes. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with lead puppet maker Spencer Lott, miniatures producer Katrina Whalen, actors Daniel Striped Tiger & Henrietta Pussycat, director Marielle Heller, assistant puppet sculptor Grace Townley-Lott, art director Greg Weimerskirch, producer Youree Henley, lead modelmaker Peter Erickson, and stars Susan Kelechi Watson and Tom Hanks.
- Daniel Tiger Explains: Practice Makes Perfect (2:42)
Daniel Tiger talks about making mistakes, and introduces a Picture Picture video about Tom Hanks making mistakes while trying to sing the theme song and zip his cardigan. Bill Isler also talks about the real Fred Rogers making mistakes during filming.
- Previews (7:48)
Trailers for Jumanji: The Next Level, Overcomer, and Little Women.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is an engaging film that combines nostalgia with a dramatic story about love, friendship and forgiveness winning over cynicism and holding a grudge. The recreation of the iconic Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is fantastic, and often had me wondering if they had just used archival footage. The performances are also amazing. Sony’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great, and includes an excellent selection of bonus material. This release comes recommended for fans of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood looking for some nostalgia, or anyone just looking for a solid and uplifting dramatic tale.