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Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Blu-ray Review)

For over thirty years, Fred Rogers, an unassuming minister, puppeteer, writer and producer was beamed daily into homes across America. In his beloved television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred and his cast of puppets and friends spoke directly to young children about some of life’s weightiest issues, in a simple, direct fashion. There hadn’t been anything like Mr. Rogers on television before and there hasn’t been since. And now, you’ll be able to own the acclaimed Focus Features film, a box office success story this summer, on Blu-ray September 4th (So, now, that means). You can order yourself a copy of the movie using the Amazon link following the review. You know, its the kind of friendly, neighborly thing that Mr. Rogers would want you to do. 🙂

Film 

Though he may be best known today as a soft-spoken, cardigan-wearing children’s television host, in reality, Fred Rogers’ career represents a sustained attempt to present a coherent, beneficent view about how we should best speak to children about important matters and how television could be used as a positive force in our society.

In Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom) looks back on the legacy of Fred Rogers, focusing on his radically kind ideas. While the nation changed around him, Fred Rogers stood firm in his beliefs about the importance of protecting childhood. Neville pays tribute to this legacy with the latest in his series of highly engaging, moving documentary portraits of essential American artists.

Try not and fall for this film, I dare you. Its a sweet, genuine look back at a…well, sweet, genuine man and his influence over most of our childhoods. While everyone seems to know it, this film reinforces it and really drives into why Fred Rogers teachings and approach worked and had a staying power of decades. It delves into the man, his motivation, his reactions and his constant love of help and teachings in his life. I’m sure many didn’t have a dry eye leaving the theater following the film, but its quite understandable as to why.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 / 1.33:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Won’t You Be My Neighbor features an assortment of video clips ranging from the 1960s to the present. They features an expected varying quality to them. The interview clips are crisp, sharp, full and pretty pristine. The vintage television interviews and program clips look to about the best quality they could possibility, their deficiencies having high detail levels.

Depth:  Depth is rather solid. Going off the modern clips, it looks above average and the interviewees appear free in their respective environments.

Black Levels: Blacks can be deep and well saturated. Shadows look pretty lovely and most of the detail stays intact in darkness. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong, even coming through nicely in old television video clips. There’s a solid palette on display, which has good saturation and a decent pop to it.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistency from start to finish. No matter the image quality or the age of the clip, within the confines of said source, it stays the same. In the interviews, wrinkles, stubble, make-up and other textures are noticeable from any reasonable distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Won’t You Be My Neighbor didn’t have to go all out with a 5.1 track. A 2.0 stereo mix would have sufficed and this really plays like one. The rear channels are seldom used and there’s nothing here to demand a subwoofer boom at given turns. However, it does sound quite good, given what the film is and sets out to accomplish.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Mostly the subwoofer is used on some music cues, but its rather, understandable light.

Surround Sound Presentation: There isn’t much usage of the surround channels here, so not much to talk about at all. And its not like the film demands or even has a natural place to use them, so you can’t knock it for its lack of.

Dialogue Reproduction: All vocals, even the old clips, are wonderfully clear and crisp, plenty audible. The old stuff sounds pretty refreshed and restored with no real signs of wear or distortion.

Extras 

Won’t You Be My Neighbor features no supplemental material. It doesn’t include a title menu, playing just like a screener with a bare bones pop up menu to access audio/subtitle options.

Summary 

Like Fred Rogers himself, Won’t You Be My Neighbor is an education, sweet, genuine and good hearted documentary on one of the greatest teachers television has ever offered us. Its also one of the year’s very best films. This Blu-ray comes with a terrific picture and audio presentation. Oddly, its lacking not only in extras but a menu as well. This plays as nothing more than a screener, so some may be more than happy with just making a digital purchase.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Kiara

    I need to watch this