Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
104 Minutes (PG)
Winner of 3 Oscars including best Visual effects.
Nominated for 2 Golden Globes- Best Picture (Musical/Comedy) and Best Actor (Musical/Comedy- Bob Hoskins)
Before Robert Zemeckis made creepy motion capture movies where the characters move stiffly like wax dummies; he made some of the greatest movies ever. He directed the award winning Forrest Gump and The Back to the Future trilogy. With the help of Steven Speilberg he made a wonderfully imaginative and grand technological achievement known as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The movie sets the mood with a Roger Rabbit cartoon, a character created for the movie. This cartoon is reminiscent of many Bugs Bunny and early Disney cartoons which is perfect as the movie is set in 1940’s L.A. where cartoon characters and humans coexist. Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is a private investigator who has a harsh prejudice towards ‘toons’ after a ‘toon’ dropped a piano on his brother’s head. He ends up getting hired by Roger Rabbit’s boss to investigate a scandal involving Roger’s wife playing patty cake with the owner of Toontown, Marvin Acme. Acme is murdered the next day, and Roger is the main suspect. Roger ropes Eddie into helping find who framed Roger’s good name.
The film is a wild take on your standard film noir. Eddie Valiant feels like a character straight from a film more like the Maltese Falcon. All of the human characters play it straight. This gives the perfect balance to the cartoon characters making them all the more well…cartoonish. The world they live in is realistic and grown up, which builds a great contrast when they get to Toon Town in the third act. Christopher Lloyd is phenomenal as the villain Judge Doom. In a movie filled with silly characters, it’s amazing to see an intimidating character. Lloyd was such a funny character in Back to the Future and now he’s completely transformed into strong force of evil. Think the coat hanger Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark mixed with Professor Snape.
There was a deal between Warner Brothers, Disney, and the makers of this film. Disney characters and Warner Brothers had to get equal screen time. This is a rare occasion of when executives arguing and got amazing results. This leads to two amazing scenes. One scene where Donald Duck and Daffy Duck (no relation) are performing a dualing piano performances. They fight constantly and poke fun at each of their accents. This scene alone makes the movie. Another great scene comes later on where you have both Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny on screen. It’s great to see both studio’s mascots come together. It’s little touches like this that really add to the movie. This movie is a celebration of cartoons. You’ll see countless cameos from great cartoon characters.
The movie also is a bit raunchy. Roger’s co star is a cartoon baby who seems sweet and innocent in the cartoons, but smokes, swears, and womanizes off set. The movie also deals with Eddie’s alcoholism. There is a great scene near the end where Eddie finally quits drinking, and it involves one of the coolest guns ever. Judge Doom’s weasel sidekicks are also a hilarious highlight of the movie. There’s also plenty of winks to older crowd.
What more is there to say about this masterpiece. It is funny for adults and children alike. It doesn’t talk down to kids or ever feel it was a movie made for the director’s kids. It is nothing short of brilliant. There isn’t a single scene that isn’t overflowing with charm. If you ever get tired of the mind numbing movies that get passed as children’s entertainment these days, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is and excellent choice. It’s also easily the best movie with a question for a title.