By Frank Rivet
First off, let me preface by saying that I liked this movie. That said I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it. I went in to this expecting a bio pic like the documentary that came out last year. It isn’t. Let me start at the beginning.
Before the movie even started, I had to sit through a trailer for Episode 9. That would have been annoying enough except it was the ONLY trailer. Then the movie starts, and it starts like an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Then the door opened and Tom Hanks appeared. I have always enjoyed Tom Hanks, he was and is a great actor, but here my immediate impression was that he was uncomfortable playing the role, and this impression was reinforced throughout the whole movie by two things: his eyes and his voice.
In his later years Tom Hanks has developed a squint like Clint Eastwood, and this is at odds with Mr. Rogers. Roger’s eyes were always open, expressive, and kind. Hanks looks like he’s deciding where he wants to stab you. Next his voice. Roger’s voice was a light, pleasant tenor with a lilt, the kind of voice that kids and adults would feel totally comfortable listening to; Hanks’voice is lower and just sounds like his normal self. These two things made it impossible for me to suspend disbelief and just see him as Mr. Rogers.
Then the story itself really threw me off. It’s inspired by an article written for Esquire magazine back in 98, so the movie follows a fictionalized version of the reporter who is wrestling with emotional baggage involving the death of his mother and his anger at his estranged father. Mr. Rogers helps him to get past all this and reconcile with his father before the old man dies.
Sounds like a nice movie, right? It is. The problem? Mr. Rogers is a tertiary character in what should have been a story about himself. When he was there, all I could see was Tom Hanks saying things Mr. Rogers would have said, the rest of the time we’re with the reporter, Lloyd, going through his issues with his past.
As I said, I liked it, but I don’t know how to feel about it.
Would I go out of my way to see it again? Probably not. Do I recommend it to others to see? Yes. If you grew up watching Mr. Rogers like I did and you want to catch a further glimpse behind the curtain of his personality, give this a watch and form your own opinions. Personally I’d rather watch the documentary. Enjoy!