Mini-Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Review by Aaron Haughton
Funny, powerful, and downright lovely are just a few adjectives that instantly spring to mind regarding Morgan Neville's latest documentary effort, Won't You Be My Neighbor? The film proves that Fred Rogers and his message (of loving yourself just exactly as you are) are just as sharp now as they were when Mr. Rogers first aired in the late 60s, and it serves as a potent testament to his many achievements and his neighborhood that made the world a better place.
There's nothing particularly spectacular about Neville's approach to filmmaking, which consists of the juxtaposition between archival footage, animation and interviews, but the editing and arrangement by Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden is as highly effective as the potency of the subject matter.
In many ways, Won't You Be My Neighbor? serves as a 90-minute uplifting break from the chaos, cynicism and division of the outside world that fits snuggly around your body like a warm blanket. It's extremely affecting, so you may also want to bring along some tissues because this documentary wears its heart on its sleeve and is capable of getting the viewer in the feel-zone on numerous occasions.
The film's emotional core is perfectly counterweighted by a surprising amount of laughs and the inspiring boost of Mr. Rogers' legacy. Through and through, Neville shows us in increasingly touching ways just how timely and timeless an icon Mr. Rogers is and always will be. There is an example of this early on where we are shown clips from an early episode of Mr. Rogers' program (taped during his first week on air) about a controlling king who wanted to build a wall around a border (that doesn't sound familiar at all, right?).
Necessity was the mother of Mr. Rogers' invention, which seems to echo Neville's intent; we are in need of role models like Fred Rogers in our current age. Many of us grew up watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and Won't You Be My Neighbor? allows us to visit our old childhood stomping grounds one more time. If you're anything like me, you'll be inflated with friendly and positive inspiration that you'll want to share with the rest of the world, which ultimately keeps the spirit of Mr. Rogers alive.
Rating: 4.5 cardigan sweaters outta 5.
What do you think? Did you grow up on Mr. Rogers? Are you excited about the film? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!