Will there ever be a Mr. Rogers again

© FORUM - The weekly magazine

Tom Hanks plays a US television star in "The Wonderful Mr. Rogers." The drama is a call to people to be kinder to one another rather than suspicious of one another.

Has anyone in Germany ever heard of Fred Rogers? Probably not. Rogers was an American television presenter. His toddler show was called "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and was on US TV from 1968 to 2001 - so successful that Rogers was something of a national treasure. He was admired for bringing children (and adults) encouraged to talk about her feelings. "The Wonderful Mr. Rogers" is a film that puts that very Fred Rogers in focus. And although the TV presenter played by Tom Hanks may be completely uninteresting for the German cinema audience, the film is nice to watch and even has an important message at the end.

Interview assignment met with reluctance

However, those who hope the film will scratch the overly friendly facade of TV favorite Rogers will be disappointed. Director Marielle Heller does not fall for such a simple plot, although the protagonist of the film, the cynical journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), would like a spectacular story of revelation. Vogel is reluctant to accept the assignment to conduct an interview with Rogers in his TV studio. The journalist sees the task as a step backwards because he would rather deal with difficult topics than with a child presenter, whom he considers to be completely uninteresting and without edges. But an article with 400 words (so much less than this film review), he'll be able to do that quickly, he hopes. When the journalist arrives at the location of the "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" studio, however, the TV freak exerts a diffuse fascination for the writer. Because beyond the cameras, Rogers is exactly who he is live on TV: a thoroughly amiable one and selfless person who lets Vogel's gray cynicism evaporate into pink clouds.

It's hard to believe that such a person could be interesting for the big screen without any edges, but still is. It is thanks to Tom Hanks that Rogers remains without big surprises, but that he will still be watched with pleasure. The slow, simple, invariably honest and never condescending words, as well as the way Hanks invites viewers into Roger's strange but equally harmonious world, are the movie's greatest joys. As Rogers, the actor Hanks seduces the journalist Vogel and also the audience with his unusual, almost bizarre means of communication and manages to make everyone drop their suspicions. So it is ultimately a pretty big show by Tom Hanks, who has already given the do-gooders as Forrest Gump and in numerous other film hits, but leads him to perfection as Fred Rogers.

A different kind of father-son story

Lloyd Vogel defends himself for a while against the sheer limitless friendliness of his interlocutor and gives himself to it anyway in the end. The film becomes a somewhat bizarre father-son story because Rogers can't help but fit himself selflessly into the lives of others - especially those who need help. In any case, Lloyd Vogel leaves the TV studio after the interview and finally writes an article about Fred Rogers that is ten times longer than planned.

"The wonderful Mr. Rogers" is not a film without flaws. There is, for example, an exuberant and a little too shallow dream sequence as well as in the last act some emotions that don't touch you as they should. The perhaps emerging expectation, but still a surprising one Fortunately, being able to discover Edge in Fred Rogers does not. Rather, the film exudes a continuous warmth, so that many viewers understand the core message well and hopefully internalize it: Remain curious about life and people; pushing mistrust aside, forgiving mistakes , Show respect.

It's actually a shame that the German viewers never met the real US presenter Fred Rogers. He died in 2003 at the age of 75. He hosted almost 900 episodes of "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ".