Eppler: "Neighbor" grows appreciation for Mr. Rogers' work, visi

Eppler: "Neighbor" grows appreciation for Mr. Rogers' work, vision

As a child, I was never a fan of Mr. Rogers. I found him off-putting and just never trusted this strange man wanting to be my neighbor. It was only when I grew up and had a child of my own that I came to understand his vision for reaching children and how he accomplished it. "Won't You Be My Neighbor" grew my appreciation for the man and his work even more - a portrait of a mission of spreading kindness and love.

Through interviews with family, friends, co-workers and even old tapes of Fred Rogers himself, the movie details his life's work, which is expertly sewn together by director Morgan Neville. That is no small feat considering the decades worth of "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" to navigate. The pieces chosen enhance the story beautifully.

It's tempting to criticize the movie for not digging deeper into who Fred Rogers was off-screen, but by all accounts, the man on TV was the man he was in life.  There's no dark secret to uncover, no deep inner struggle. And considering all the news of late about admired "family values" celebrities hiding dark deeds (that's you, Bill Cosby), what a relief that there was at least one who was the real deal.

This documentary is an odd viewing experience because it left me an emotional wreck without ever being sad. The genuine kindness on display is overwhelming. And it's a movie bold enough to ask viewers to examine ourselves, our own contributions to making the world a better place. We need this right now.

Playing only at Alamo Drafthouse Lubbock

EPPLER'S RATING: * * * * 1/2

RATING SCALE

* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful  - The worst, an insult to movies

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