Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Posted by on Dec 29, 2011 in Welcome to Our World | 0 comments

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Disclaimer: Some excessive drinking and racy double entendres involving animated buxom babes.

When it was made in 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was the most expensive film ever produced, had the longest on-screen credits, and marked the first time cartoon icons from Disney and Warner Brothers appeared together on screen. None of these aspects alone make the film worth seeing; at best, they may make it memorable. No, the magic that makes this film incredible stems from an impeccable blend of film noir and comedy, not to mention the most convincing blend of live action and animation in cinema history.

It’s so convincing, in fact, that in the weeks following its release, Bob Hoskins’ son would not speak to him. When Hoskins finally asked why he was getting the silent treatment, his son told him he was furious he didn’t invite his animated co-stars Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny over to visit. That’s how convincing.

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The film follows Eddie Valiant (Hoskins), an alcoholic private eye who’s grieving the death of his brother, and partner in crime. Back in their prime, the brothers were famous for solving cases in Toon Town (guess who lives there). Now, Valiant must revisit his painful past as he becomes entangled in a controversy involving public transportation, cartoon studio Maroon Cartoons, and its biggest star, Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer). As the title aptly suggests, Roger is framed for the murder of Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), the guy behind all the gags and props in cartoons. In pursuit of Roger throughout the film (and Valiant, since he helps hide Roger), are three animated weasels and Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd). The Klaus Kinski-looking Doom invented the only substance that can kill cartoons, which he coins “The Dip.”

The backdrop of the entire film is California in the 1940s, much like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. This includes, among other things, a Veronica Lake-esque buxom babe Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Kathleen Turner, returning to her role in Body Heat). She’s a red herring spider woman character all the guys drool over and only Roger has the honor of taking home every night.

“I’m not bad,” she says coyly at one point. “I’m just drawn that way.”

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Disney Studios and Steven Spielberg came together for this incredible feature with Robert Zemeckis at the helm and a slew of animators who created more than 85,000 hand-painted or inked cells on live-action backdrops. They did not use computers for this film, a rare feat, and some scenes involved as many as 100 film elements on top of each other. It’s so involved that we can’t quite tell if toons are invading the real world or if it’s the other way around.

While the thrilling story will keep the adults on their seats, the kids will be blown away and aching from laughter with the appearances of such recognizable characters as Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Betty Boop, Dumbo, Yosemite Sam, Droopy, and Porky Pig, just to name a few.

As years go by, fewer and fewer people will remember the days of cartoons, not advertisements, filling the spare time before the feature. Thankfully, this film includes an excellent one that eventually blends in with the beginning of the film. (And thanks to Pixar, as well, for always including one before features.)

The only drawback to Roger Rabbit is the inevitable conversation you’ll be forced to have with your kids, explaining that, unfortunately, Bugs and Mickey will never make it to dinner.

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