Won’t You Be My Neighbor?                review by Bobby Blakey

Throughout the years there have been a ton of children’s programs that helped to shape the youth of that generation, but there are few as beloved as Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. The series ran from 1963 until early 2000 and while it was geared towards the 2-5 year olds it still garnered viewers from all ages. Now fans of the series will get to go inside the popular series with the new documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor.

The film takes an intimate look at America’s favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers. A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination. Before even seeing the trailer I knew this was going to be a film I had to see. Much like many kids in my generation and before we grew up on Mr. Rogers and he still holds special place in our hearts. As I kid I knew there was something off with the show, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized it was so original and different than everything else out there which is what made it stand out. This documentary does a great job at taking the viewer on a journey that not only goes behind the scenes of the show, but the man himself.

From the first frame listening to Fred Rogers speak it is near impossible to not be fully enthralled. I found myself sucked right in marveling at this story as though I was kid enthralled in the land of make believe. There is just something mesmerizing about Rogers and this film does a brilliant job of telling his story. There are elements of his childhood and life outside the series, but the main focal point is the journey to get the show on the air and his lifelong passion to spread love and joy to the world through the eyes and minds of children. Hearing the varying people throughout his life speak about him and the show including family, friends, cast and crew is heartwarming and heartbreaking at times knowing he is no longer with us, but so great seeing how many people were positively affected by knowing him.

His story is so much more than just the famed television show, but a glimpse into his mission and numerous powerful events throughout history. As they touch base on some of the more prominent events I found myself being affected by them all over again like they were just happening. It not only takes you back to seeing the show, but remembering where you were at the time of these events which packs an emotional punch. As the film comes to a close there is a moment that was pure genius that left no dry eye in the house as it hits you with one last Rogers moments like only he can. The film never disappoints and showcases a story that is so compelling, touching and still insanely relevant today that you will no doubt want to see it more than once.

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