“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is a wonderful documentary about Fred Rogers, a man who had an uncanny ability to connect with children. He was an ordained minister, who took the gospel of kindness to a young TV audience full of curiosity and fears. Morgan Neville (Oscar winner for “20 Feet From Stardom”) marshals Rogers’ family members and TV Crew to help us learn more about this onetime Minister, driven to create an antidote to the slapstick commercialism of Network children’s programming with a gentle slow-paced show that nonetheless dealt with big issues like assassinations and racism.
Fred had his challenges: we learn about his own childhood, overweight and insecure, his controlling nature as a writer, producer: his longtime TV crew loved to prank him behind the scenes. There’s is a wonderful moment where he was able to brilliantly defuse a Senate Subcommittee attempt to cut Public TV funding by reciting the words of one of his songs, “What Do You Do With The Mad You Feel?”.
The fact that many movie goers tear up watching this documentary underscores the importance of his message of kindness and inclusion in these times of fear and division.
Rated: PG 13
My GPA: 3.8