These two examples of "edgy" takes on kids shows serve as an interesting counterpoint to the new Mr. Rogers documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, which opened quietly in 29 theaters across the country last Friday and earned a healthy $470,000 at the box office. In terms of tone and approach, it could not be more different than Gondry's post-rock soundtracked mix of whimsy and psychological unease. Like its subject, the film from 20 Feet From Stardom director Morgan Neville is kind, curious, and gentle. It certainly doesn't have any puppet sex scenes.
At the same time, Won't You Be My Neighbor? doesn't shy away from or avoid the numerous rumors, insinuations, and urban legends that have swirled around Fred Rogers since his eponymous half-hour program, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, debuted in 1968 and became a national sensation. In a section late in the film, we hear testimonials from his co-workers, family, and friends: No, he wasn't gay; he didn't have tattoos on his arms; he wasn't a raging egomaniac behind the scenes. The moral complexities of Fred Rogers, who died in 2003 at the age of 74, are subtler. The gray areas harder to pinpoint.