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A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

‘Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood’ was an American children’s TV series which ran for decades. Akin to ‘Sesame Street’, it covered various everyday issues as hosted by the perennially jovial host Fred Rogers. ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’ spins a semi-fictional tale conveying how influential the show became. Marielle Heller’s stylish direction elevates the film with the appropriately cast Tom Hanks leading the charge.

Writing for the fabled Esquire magazine in 1998, journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is jaded about life. Although recently becoming a new father, his world view is steeped in cynicism. When asked to write an article on ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood’ host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), Lloyd glumly agrees. What transpires is a life-changing experience with Rogers’ outlook shining a light on Lloyd’s often bleak existence.

With the subject matter and Hanks in the lead, it would be easy to dismiss ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’ as ‘Forrest Gump part 2’. Occasionally it veers into sentimentality, but it offers strong, emotional moments about forgiveness and moving on without feeling preachy. Hank’s performance is a study in controlled optimism and Rhys equally as good with his characters opposite outlook on a fractured life.

‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’ also looks at how influential early childhood television can be. Without treating young viewers like imbeciles, Rogers explained topics in a matter of fact easy manner which transcended generations. The drama and pathos are effectively balanced and told simply like one of his shows. The story slowly and effectively draws you in towards a low-key but satisfying conclusion.

Whilst some Australian audiences may be unfamiliar with Fred Rogers, ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’s themes are universal. It also reveals how the ability to educate as well as entertain can be an art-form few can genuinely do. It’s the type of movie making you want to learn more about its subject, which is a mark of success to which any biopic aspires.

Rating out of 10: 7

Bad Boys for Life

The ‘Bad Boys’ films aren’t known for high art or subtlety. Riffing on the cop buddy formula, the previous two films were considerable hits filled with lots of action and politically incorrect humour. ‘Bad Boys for Life’ has been a long time coming with the previous instalment screening in 2003. The world may have dramatically changed since but the style of story-telling the series is known for remains in all its kitsch glory.

Miami detectives Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and Mike (Will Smith) have been partners in crime for years. Marcus now wants to be a police inspector while Mike is charged with looking after a younger generation of cops. Their past catches up with them when the wife and son of a drug lord killed by Marcus and Mike seek vengeance. With guns at their disposal, the duo unite one last time in a cavalcade of chaos and calamity.

‘Bad Boys for Life’ contains genuine surprises. Not so much in its performances or over the top action, all of which are as expected. The surprise arrives from a script having more depth than usual. This may sound ridiculous for a ‘Bad Boys’ flick, but the plot ensues it has a more involving and personal connection for the characters. The stakes are higher with events not playing out as you’d expect.

This added layer of true danger makes ‘Bad Boys for Life’ more compelling viewing. That isn’t to say it’s all Shakespeare because it definitely isn’t that. The lead’s charisma, fast moving plot, well filmed action sequences make for entertaining fun. The visuals are spectacular as ever, with a glossy comic-book sheen successfully conveying the film’s general outlandish flavour.

These types of films have their fans and ‘Bad Boys for Life’ delivers a little more than you’d expect. It isn’t a lazy re-tread like so many other sequels. It’s diverting for what it is with a better character and narrative focus than previous instalments. These boys may be bad but it isn’t bad to enjoy this slice of silly hokum for those wanting OTT escapism.

Rating out of 10: 7