Won't You Be My Neighbor - DVD Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray / Media Reviews' started by Michael Scott, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Moderator / Reviewer
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    Won't You Be My Neighbor?


    [​IMG]

    Movie: :5stars:
    Video: :3.5stars:
    Audio: :4stars:
    Extras:
    Final Score: :4stars:



    [​IMG] Movie

    I can’t think of a single entertainer who has effected children of all ages as much, or as powerfully, as Fred Rogers has with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I don’t think that there is a person over 30 years of age alive who hasn’t at least seen SOME of the famous children’s PBS show, and I honestly don’t know a person who has that doesn’t have fond memories of the man’s work. He was one of the few people that honestly loved children as much as a person could, and dedicated his life, his ministry, and his love reaching out to that demographic and making them feel truly special. When I heard that they were making a documentary about Mr. Rogers I was ecstatic, but the fates conspired against me and I sadly couldn’t go see it in theaters (although it stayed up at the top rankings for over 10 weeks) and was eager to dig into the home video release when Universal announced it a month ago. Tearing through the 95 minute documentary, I don’t think I’ve been this enthralled and captivated by a non fiction work in YEARS. Won’t You Be My Neighbor is sweet, poignant, and a wonderful bit of honorary respect to a man who’s legacy on TV outstretched anything compatible to it, whether that be today, yesterday, or anytime in the past.

    The film explores the life and works of one Fred Rogers, otherwise known as Mr. Rogers to kids of all ages. Planning to be an ordained Presbyterian minister, Fred left his his senior year of schooling with a different path in his heart. It was the 1960s and Television was just becoming a thing back then. Realizing the great potential the medium had, Fred was eager to go into show business and use that medium as his pulpit, instead of completing his work as a traditional minister. What started out as a simple children’s corner on WQED, a publicly funded station, became a legendary TV series that spanned 43 years, 31 seasons, and a whopping 912 episodes (something only British sci-fi shows and Soap Operas can even come close to matching).
    [​IMG] Fred Rogers and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was not just a kid’s show and a goofy host. Fred wanted so very desperately to reach out to a class of society that was traditionally thought of as being...well..childish. Children back then (and today in many ways) were treated as something they COULD become, instead of focusing on what they were at that moment by adults. The documentary takes a good look behind the scenes of what it took to become the star that Fred was, and the man behind in front of the camera. I’d like to say “the man behind the mask”, but Fred Rogers apparently didn’t hide behind a mask on TV. What you saw, complete with tying of sneakers, zipping up a cardigan (many of which were made by Fred’s mother), and honest joy at teaching children were all him to the core.

    The documentary uses a lot of archival footage, as well as interviews culled over the years from various public figures as well as family and people who worked with him over the 31 seasons. It’s fascinating to see that not a single one would deny that Fred was probably the most open and loving man that they’d ever met. You could see a few people had faults with how he did things at times, but they ALL had nothing but respect for the true love that he displayed to everyone. Whether it be his adoring wife, openly gay actor Francois Scarborough Clemmons (who played Officer Clemmons on the show), or even his own producer. The characters that he voiced in the land of make believe were extensions of this love, and each a facet of himself (or sometimes a family member). It’s fascinating to come to understand that the beloved Daniel Striped Tiger was really Fred’s inner child coming out to play, and see his progression from identifying as the tame tiger, to actually morphing into King Friday the XIII over the years as well (something due to him being frustrated with the modern world of television).




    Rating:

    Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language




    Video: :3.5stars:
    [​IMG]
    As is the case with most documentaries pertaining to characters of an “oldish” nature, Won’t You Be My Neighbor is cobbled together from pieces of archival footage, black and white tapes, and some more modern interviews that all show varying degrees of clarity and age. The older tape interviews from way back in the 60s and 70s look the worst, but that’s natural due to the source and not something that is any fault of the encode. The newer bits from the early 2000s during his final years as Mr. Rogers cleans up a good bit, and the really modern interviews naturally look the best with nice and shiny digital veneers to them. The varying degrees of quality keep it from looking like eye candy, but the encode itself is fairly clean of any artifacting (just some digital noise and some soft scenes), and the overall clarity is commendable depending on the source (and of course the aspect ratios will change depending on whether it’s archival footage or more modern sequences).








    Audio: :4stars:
    [​IMG] The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is a very satisfying mix, but as you would probably expect, it rarely ever moves out of the front of the room or engage the subwoofer at all. That being said, the front three speakers are the heart and soul of the mix and do a good job with the lower quality archival footage, as well as the dialog form all of the interviews. It’s evenly balanced across all sources, and the vocals are usually crisp and well defined. The music flows effortlessly up in the front of the room, and even though it doesn’t really kick on the surrounds, is a very rich and full experience to listen to. It’s not going to be an action or blockbuster track, but as a documentary, it holds its own quite well.




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    Extras:
    [​IMG]











    Final Score: :4.5stars:



    Whether you’ve seen every episode of his show, or grown up from a time long ago, Fred McFeely Rogers has touched the lives of millions upon MILLIONS of children over his career. The man was a devout believer in who lived and breathed by one of the most potent rules of all. Love the lord your God with all your heart, your soul and your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. And the one thing that we learn first in Mr. Rogers house is, we’re all neighbors. For a 95 minute documentary the film just flies by and is a treat to watch. At just under 40 years old I still get a bit teary eyed watching my childhood flash before my eyes (it was frightening how quickly I remembered most of the clips from the show going back decades), and Universal does a solid job with the film’s technical aspects. Audio is excellent, and video naturally varied (multiple sources to pull from) but sadly there are no extras whatsoever. Although, I can kind of understand that considering that the entire FILM is one giant “behind the scenes” stream. Must Watch is my heartfelt recommendation.



    Technical Specifications:

    Starring: Fred Rogers, Betty Aberlin, Joanne Rogers
    Directed by: Morgan Neville
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, 1.78:1, 1.33:1 MPEG2
    Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0
    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
    Studio: Universal
    Rated: PG-13
    Runtime: 95 Minutes
    DVD Release Date: September 4th, 2018







    Recommendation: Must Watch

     
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  2. tripplej

    tripplej AV Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the review. I also wanted to catch this in theater but was not able to.. Glad to hear the documentary is good.

    I am a fan of Mr. Rogers so will get this one. Reminds me of my childhood and we do need more people like him today on TV for kids.
     
  3. Todd Anderson

    Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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    I'm in the same boat - have been interested, but not quite sure I wanted to hit the theater. Looks like one I'll need to watch. Anyone know if this is a Redbox title?
     
  4. tripplej

    tripplej AV Enthusiast

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