“You lack vision, but I see a place where people get on and off the freeway. On and off, off and on all day, all night. Soon, where Toon Town once stood will be a string of gas stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food. Tire salons, automobile dealerships and wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see. My God, it’ll be beautiful.”
It’s a groundbreaking piece of American cinema, combining live action and animation, not to mention putting Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck together with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on screen for the first time ever.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Directed by Robert Zemekis
Written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, based on the novel by Gary K. Wolf
I can’t believe this movie will have its 30th anniversary next month. It’s probably time for another special edition remastered Blu-Ray release, huh? I probably saw this movie in theaters 2-3 times the summer it was released. All this time later, I’m not entirely sure it was aimed at kids, regardless of the toons and the slapstick action. I seriously doubt it would have received the PG rating it had in 1988 if it was released in the 1990s or later.
The movie, set in 1940s Hollywood, is an over-the-top noir story that sees a detective hired in an infidelity case that ends up having much larger ramifications. When Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) investigates the wife of toon star Roger Rabbit and finds that Jessica has been playing patty cakes (no, that’s not a euphemism) with millionaire businessman and philanthropist Marvin Acme, it sets off a larger fight over the future of Acme’s Toon Town after Acme is found murdered. The villainous Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) wants Toon Town to himself, so he can burn it down and build a freeway. The premise goes from noir to nutty when you factor in all the cartoons, including characters from Warner Bros. and Disney, all sharing screen time.
What continues to make WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT impressive even all these years later is how well the live action characters and settings interacted with the cartoon elements. It didn’t register much to 8-year-old me, but as an adult, it still all looks so seamless.
Another aspect of the film that keeps it from fading into obscurity is the absolute wonderful performances from Hoskins and Lloyd. Both men embrace the absurdity of the plot and flop between tempered solemnity and wacky shenanigans brilliantly. Hoskins, especially, does a great job as the everyman who is just as amazed at the zaniness of a cartoon backlot as the audience would be.
Thirty years after its’ theatrical release, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT is just as much fun as it was when I was a kid.