Toronto Film Fest critics are loving Tom Hanks in ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’

Photo: Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Photo by Lacey Terrell.

Pittsburghers still have to wait until November 22 to see the Mr. Rogers movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” But judging by the positive response to the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival over the weekend, the fictionalized telling of Fred Rogers interaction with writer Tom Junod will be worth the wait.

Here’s what critics have to say:

USA Today

Tom Hanks’ performance as Pittsburgh’s beloved Fred Rogers earned praise from USA Today when it screened at the festival.

“Hanks feels so right in the role from the beginning. There’s a perfect imperfectness that matches the real Rogers, whether you watched him growing up or were introduced through last year’s superb documentary ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,’ ” writes Brian Truitt in his review.

“As for the look and feel, Hanks adds some eyebrows and slows down his speaking to portray a man seemingly always calm. His Rogers will emit the occasional ‘Oh, my’ if there’s something particularly revelatory in his conversations with Lloyd, who doesn’t quite believe at first that this TV host is as good a man as he appears to be,” Truitt says. “Mostly Hanks is having the best time ever, crashing down on piano keys, singing as Daniel Tiger or throwing out a humble Rogers-ism: ‘Fame is a four-letter word like tape or zoom or face. What matters is what you do with it.’ ”

Tom Hanks gets fancy with the Fred Rogers’ shoe change. Photo by Lacey Terrell.


Critic Owen Gleiberman shares approval in his review in Variety:

“Hanks nails Fred Rogers’ so-delicate-it’s-peculiar speaking style — the folksy singsong that could almost be a drawl, the way the words come out slowly enough to make him sound like a benevolent hypnotist. Mister Rogers, of course, has been parodied many times, but what Hanks gets, playing him with drop-dead sincerity, isn’t just the talking-to-a-child rhythm. It’s the way that Rogers uses that halting, wide-eyed mystique to slow the whole world down, to create a safe space of inquiry, so that you start to notice things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Guardian

In Benjamin Lee’s story for The Guardian, he says Hanks charms with his portrayal in this moving and engrossing departure from a traditional biopic. He writes:

“Casting Hanks as Rogers seemed almost too fitting conceptually – one beloved, fundamentally ‘good’ US father figure playing another – but their charms are vastly different. Rogers had a calming stillness to him while Hanks has a more lively, boyish effervescence. (Director Marielle) Heller has spoken about a process of essentially deprogramming Hanks, forcing his regular tics to fade away. It’s a deep-rooted transformation and, while Hanks avoids attempting to awkwardly replicate Rogers’ voice – although he does nail his cadence – he focuses on exuding the same bewitching, patient curiosity that Rogers had in the people he met.”

Tom Hanks stars as Mister Rogers in TriStar Pictures’ ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.’ Photo by Lacey Terrell.

New York Post

The lovefest continues with Sara Stewart’s review in the New York Post. She writes:

“Make no mistake: Hanks was born to play this role. He’s not channeling Rogers, exactly, but he has a firm grasp on the unflappable, generous sincerity that was the TV host’s trademark. Add in the underlying fact that Hanks is already one of our most beloved actors — the applause when he strolled onstage with the cast at the film’s world premiere on Saturday evening was thunderous — and you have an alchemical reaction for the ages. (That said, every so often a teensy bit of Forrest Gump does creep into his Pittsburgh twang.)”

Hollywood Reporter

Reporting for the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy says Tom Hanks makes a perfect Fred Rogers. From his review:

“It only takes a couple of minutes of watching Hanks go through the Rogers rituals on the familiar set of his show to know that you’re in good hands — that the actor will entirely deliver the Rogers persona physically, vocally and in attitude. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that many people will relax into the movie so much that they’ll forget they’re watching an impersonation. The slow, easy, invariably honest and never condescending words that come out of his mouth, and the way Hanks invites you into Rogers’ odd but convincing world, provide the film’s greatest pleasures. The actor persuades you to drop your guard and let the man’s unique, if nonetheless a bit bizarre, means of communication take you by the hand and lead you to hitherto unexpected emotional and attitudinal places.”