‘Betty White: A Celebration’ toasts to White’s brilliant life, bringing tears and laughter to viewers


Image used with permission from Fathom Events.

The documentary film “Betty White: A Celebration” commemorates her life and highlights her pioneering in the television industry. Since her debut in the 1930s, comedian and actress Betty White built up a career and left behind a legacy in Hollywood.

Michelle Sheen, Editor-in-Chief

“The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret,” actor Ryan Reynolds said in a Dec. 31, 2021 tweet (@vancityreynolds).

“RIP Betty White, the only Saturday Night Live [SNL] host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end,” comedian Seth Meyers tweeted the same day (@sethmeyers).

Following suit, others — both stars and fans — flooded the social media platform with thousands of messages from across the nation mourning Hollywood legend Betty White’s death and making toasts to her extraordinary life.

Many of these tweets play in a slideshow as the introduction to the special documentary movie “Betty White: A Celebration,” which highlights White’s qualities: witty, loving and impactful. It hooks the viewers’ attention and leaves them wondering how big an impact she made to receive so much love from so many people.   

The movie released in theaters Jan. 17, her would-be 100th birthday. White passed away less than a month before its screening on Dec. 31, 2021, from a stroke on Christmas Day.

Even though filmmakers Steve Boettcher and Michael Trinklein, both of whom had worked on “Pioneers of Television” with White in the past, intended to celebrate her birthday with the film, they went forward with releasing it as a way to honor her life and career.

Tear-jerking yet comedic at times, the 100-minute long movie will warm the heart of anyone who enters the theater, even those unfamiliar with White and the legacy she left behind, through scenes that exemplify her sense of humor and lovable personality.

As audience members leave the theater, they will be sure to take with them new knowledge of White’s works in the industry and how her presence shaped Hollywood as we know it today. 

The film leads viewers through the different stages of her life and career — from the first television series she ever participated in to the 1961 game show “Password,” where she met her late husband Allen Ludden to her endeavors in making it into mainstream media in her 80s. 

Its tribute to White’s SNL skit appearance in 2010 gives those sitting in the theater a sense of her undying wit and natural sense of humor. Though 80 years old at the time, she never failed to make the 2010 audience as well as the Jan. 17 audience laugh.

By highlighting her almost seven decades of television career, the producers gave viewers a sense of White’s versatility and genius in the industry. 

Most of the older generations are familiar with many of the shows presented throughout the film, but many of today’s teenagers enter theaters without much knowledge on her impact and character. This is when famed actors like Ryan Reynolds, who worked with White in “Young and Hungry,” come into play. 

Following these introductory clips, the film weaves in interviews with those whom White shared close relationships with, such as Reynolds (“Deadpool”) and actress Valerie Bertinelli (“Hot in Cleveland”), and captures her most unforgettable moments on American television.  

The documentary showcases White with Reynolds’ collaboration on the 2009 comedy show “Funny or Die Presents,” in which they feud over whether Reynolds should bring White a cup of coffee. 

Through this role, she strays from her sweet, grandmotherly appearance and reveals another side of her acting through her hilarious performance, not hesitating to curse at or pull out the middle finger on Reynolds. Scenes such as this leave viewers — especially younger audiences — wanting more and unknowingly becoming fans of White. 

White (right) and her co-stars Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty and Rue McClanahan from the TV sitcom, “The Golden Girls,” smile widely for a celebratory picture after winning a Primetime Emmy Awards. The Jan. 17-released documentary about White inserted fan-favorite clips from this show and highlighted White’s best moments in other programs.

“She’ll be remembered as one of the smartest, funniest, kindest, most generous women in a business that doesn’t normally have that kind of people in it,” said Bertinelli in one of the interview clips shown throughout the film. 

Bertinelli had been a fan of White before she worked with her in the 2010 TV sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland,” which aired until 2015, according to goodhousekeeping.com. She spoke of White’s impact on her career and the industry along with many other interviewees. 

Established as an endearing character and loving persona, White expands beyond her legacy among those in the industry and reaches into the lives of those who grew up watching her on television. 

A particular instance that reminds audiences of White’s uncanny ability to make viewers and those around her laugh is the clip of her shooting of an episode of “Hot in Cleveland,” which is also jokingly called the “bender over” episode by Bertinelli and fans of the sitcom. 

Filled with dozens of bloopers in this particular scene, White’s giggles didn’t fail to bring the staff and her co-stars into fits of laughter. As the clip plays in the theater, those filling up the seats won’t be able to control their laughter either. 

The film even includes a Dec. 20, 2021, interview with White in which she thanked her fans for their support. This video recording would become one of her last public messages and a touching memory that will remain in viewers’ memories. 

Though this film won’t evoke the same excitement as epic movies like “Avengers: Endgame,” frequent — or not-so-frequent — moviegoers can expect to laugh at unexpected moments, cry at White’s pure outlook on the world and look into the life of a pioneer in American television.