(CNN)Tom Hanks becomes Mister Rogers in "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," a movie that's pretty magical whenever he's on the screen, and fairly mundane when he isn't.
Sony is shrewdly marketing the movie as the film we need right now, a warm blanket of kindness. That feels true, but it's hard not to wish that the story was as consistently good as the man -- and performance -- at its center.
Then again, the problem there is that the main character isn't really Rogers, but rather Lloyd Vogel ("The Americans'" Matthew Rhys), a fictionalized stand-in for magazine writer Tom Junod, whose article about his experience meeting Rogers -- and the spiritual journey of healing and self-discovery that went along with it -- provides the foundation for the film.
An investigative reporter, Mike is married to Andrea ("This is Us'" Susan Kelechi Watson) and has a baby son when he's assigned a 400-word profile of Mr. Rogers, who he quickly dismisses as "the hokey kids show guy."
What follows, though, is Mike's awakening, which leads to him addressing his long-simmering anger toward his estranged father (Chris Cooper), while the audience sees Mr. Rogers through the writer's skeptical, jaded eyes.
"I don't know if he's for real," Lloyd says early on, before his encounters with Rogers -- not exactly interviews, since the host spends as much time peppering him with questions -- begin to erode that resistance.
Even for a movie set in the late 1990s, it's hard to imagine a magazine ponying up for frequent trips to Pittsburgh for what's designed to be such a modest piece.
"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" premieres Nov. 22 in the US. It's rated PG.