A Special Delivery of Good

With his portrayal of Fred Rogers, Tom Hanks instantly grabs an audience. So too did the real Fred Rogers. In Mr. Rogers’ world where everything seemed so pure, perfect casting does exist.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t about Fred Rogers; he’s a supporting player, a healer to a resentful journalist. Indirectly then, Rogers is a healer to all. It’s absorbing material, much as Rogers’ careful words were absorbed by those who needed them.

People on TV cannot be trusted – so is the thesis Esquire writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) took into a profile on Rogers. Vogel harbored anger and distrust; it’s more than him though, and instead everyone in modern society willing to brawl online, hate, and disdain. That’s why A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood exists, enough to make Rogers real and authentic, while creating a calming force.

In a key scene, Vogel asks Rogers about death and war, divorce and fear. It’s remarkable listening to the responses – Rogers introduces his puppets. This isn’t deflection, but an opposing force. Rather than engage or moralize, Rogers counters with something pure, turning the mind from a place of distress to one of childhood calm. That’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’s message: Remember when we were kids, before society, families, and biases broke us.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a movie that is, now as much as before and in the future, needed

The entire movie becomes an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, transitions handled with menial, toy-like miniatures, with the Vogel/Rogers interviews segments in which Rogers capably calms the damaged writer. Rogers wasn’t a psychologist. Yet, his mantra – simplify perspective, forgive, and have an easy outlet – applies to all.

It’s easy to imagine a generic Hollywood biopic dressing this story lavishly. Not so for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Importantly, this doesn’t ignore dramatic impulses. This matters in Vogel’s life, but for Rogers too who serenely explains the difficulties in raising his own children; he angrily swims, and slams piano keys. Those outbursts encapsulate what one would expect of such a genuine figure. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood follows that rarest truth: what you see is what you get. Vogel discovered that, and like he muses before given the assignment, journalists tell people what they otherwise cannot know. This movie adaptation is doing the same.

Critical response labeled A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood the movie we need now. That’s not wrong, if missing a greater purpose. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a movie that is, now as much as before and in the future, needed. There was never a time when Rogers’ message was unnecessary or invalidated. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood started airing in 1968. Vietnam, racial justice, and through the oil crisis, Desert Storm; Rogers was always there. The show’s final episode aired on August 31st, 2001, mere days before 9/11 changed everyone and everything in the US. Yet, like he did with Vogel, Rogers’ understanding and methods exist postmortem to soothe. The movie makes no attempt to change that genuine image. Some things are still right on this planet.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 4K UltraHD screen shot

Video

Part of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’s aesthetic is that of a public broadcast TV show, here shot on 16mm, then further reduced with analog effects in post. Those scenes look as expected, if still carrying HDR prowess. When the miniature cities light up, they heartily do so.

The rest is moderate imagery, soft with a minor grain structure. Small detail appears in close-ups. Overall, that texture survives the muted look. Firmness isn’t part of the look, suiting the tenor intended by this story. Digital cinematography in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t about sharpness or high-end resolution.

Neither are black levels, purposefully dulled. Consider that a metaphorical touch – no total darkness exists in Mr. Rogers’ world, and no shadow is too deep to escape from. While lacking compared to typical expectations, highlights still do their part. Lights in studios or in Central Park deliver intensity. The image isn’t without contrast, so much as depth.

As with the rest, colors hold their place, firm if not heavily saturated. Flesh tones stay in a dry place. Primaries rise to a menial level. The best material happens on the show itself, where the attractively colored sets were designed to draw young eyes.

Audio

Surprisingly rich in DTS:X, crowds and city streets engage in each speaker. When Vogel appears on set, the general activity level rises. Expect little in the height channels, as if something like A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was going to stretch things anyway.

Music gives life to the calming music, even in the low-end. Throbbing bass hits a strong density and range, accentuating without overpowering.

Extras

Director Marielle Heller joins her cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes for commentary. Deleted scenes run 16-minutes, with a short but charming blooper reel following. A 10-minute featurette explores Tom Hanks in this role, followed with a 15-minute general making-of. Eight minutes focuses on the puppets and miniatures, with a puppet skit up for the finale.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Gentle and calming, even A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’s style represents Mr. Rogers’ method in a genuine tribute.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 36 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: