"Won't You Be My Neighbor?" recently surpassed $20 million at the box office – setting a record for the highest-grossing biographical documentary.
The accomplishment reflects the film's subject, Fred Rogers: modest by Hollywood standards, yet endlessly impressive. The flick taps not only a nostalgia vein, but a longing for a return to the sorely needed kindness embodied by the man known as Mister Rogers.
Moviegoers get an opportunity to head back to another favorite neighborhood with Friday's opening of "Christopher Robin." The extension of the Winnie-the-Pooh franchise offers a toy story we could all use.
Disney stirs the honey pot with the mixed-media film, as an adult, live-action Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor, far from his "Trainspotting" days) gets a visit in 1940s London from Pooh, Eeyore and pals, rendered via CGI.
The studio is making an art of recycling, from its revival of the "Star Wars" franchise to remakes of in-house animated classics (including last year's box office behemoth "Beauty and the Beast"). Disney also stands to capitalize on the international and intergenerational appeal of the recent film versions of "Peter Rabbit" and "Paddington Bear," which effectively combined humans with popular storybook characters.
Perhaps more significantly, Pooh's latest bow provides an opening act for the upcoming sequel to 1964's "Mary Poppins," the greatest Disney (mostly) live-action film of all. The rustling kite featured in the "Mary Poppins Returns" trailer is enough to induce chills.
That's a sign not only of the enduring power packed by Disney's best, but of a need for escape – and for reminders about the values embedded in the entertainment. A.A. Milne's Pooh, in both book and animated form, may be a silly old bear of little brain, but he's big on emotional intelligence.
There are worse ways to spend the summer than revisiting Mister Rogers' neighborhood and Pooh's 100 Acre Wood. There's also a chance to bring home a piece of both after the final credits roll.
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