WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT
(director: Robert Zemeckis; screenwriters: Jeffrey Price/Peter S. Seaman/from the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf; cinematographer: Dean Cundey; editor: Arthur Schmidt; music: Alan Silvestri; cast: Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant), Christopher Lloyd (Baron von Rotton/Judge Doom), Charles Fleischer (voice of Roger Rabbit), Joanna Cassidy (Dolores), Stubby Kaye (Marvin Acme), Alan Tilvern (R. K. Maroon), Kathleen Turner (voice of Jessica Rabbit), Amy Irving (singing voice of Jessica Rabbit), Lou Hirsch (Voice of Baby), Mae Questel (voice of Betty Boop), Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Sylvester, Porky Pig), Richard Ridings (Angelo), Richard Le Parmentier (Lieutenant Santino); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Frank Marshall/Robert Watts; Touchstone Pictures; 1988)
“It has become deservedly recognized as a cinema classic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”/”Beowulf”/”Contact”) directs this highly innovative visual effects film that seamlessly merges live action and animation. It’s based on the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf and is written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. In this zany production, cartoon characters become involved in a Dashiel Hammett-like film noir whodunnit. Even if the improbable story rolls along as childishly as a 1940’s cartoon, the dialogue is snappy, the sight gags are terrific,the action is hilarious and the entire venture is very entertaining. Also the technical work is brilliant. It has become deservedly recognized as a cinema classic.
Distraught down-on-his-luck human gumshoe Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), taken to drink that his beloved brother was recently killed when an unknown Toon (a derogative term used by humans to call the underpaid and discriminated cartoon characters) dropped a piano on his noggin, is hired by the human studio mogul R. K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern), the boss of Maroon Cartoons, to get the dirt on Jessica Rabbit (Voice of Kathleen Turner, Singing voice of Amy Irving) because he’s concerned that her hubby, the studio’s Toon star, Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer, Voice of Roger Rabbit), who has the color of the American flag, is having trouble concentrating on his work. Jessica is a sexy nightclub torch singer, who is so hot she even turns Eddie on. Eddie takes the case only because he’s hard up for the cash and tries to overcome the dislike he has for Toons by being professional. Eddie brings back photos of Jessica playing Patty Cakes in the back room of the nightclub with the jokester human toy manufacturer Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), the supplier to the studios of gag gadgets. The next day Acme is found dead and Roger Rabbit has to go into hiding because he’s the prime suspect.
In the Hollywood of 1947, the cartoon characters live in segregation in the LA suburb called “Toontown” where their movements are policed by the villainous Toon-hating human Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) and his Toon policemen flunkies. Since Eddie can’t stand the sinister and creepy Judge Doom, he accepts Roger Rabbit’s employment offer to find out who framed him and reluctantly grants him sanctuary while he investigates. His investigation leads to a ”Chinatown” scheme for the real killer to take control of the pristine Toontown because he learned a soon to be built Freeway will pass through the area and that will mean a business boon for Toontown.
The technical achievements were simply amazing by the likes of British animator Richard Williams (recommended to executive producer Steven Spielberg by Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones; it was coproduced by the studios of Disney and Spielberg) and with the aid of effects artists, headed by Ken Ralston, at Industrial Light and Magic who composted the live-action with the animation. Zemeckis and his team of special effects people put forth great visual effects, animation and matched it with great camera movement for the live action; they also presented the cartoon characters with a glowing 3-D effect. It was a monumental effort in technology that still doesn’t seem dated.
The innovative film proved to be a landmark movie in animation, and though it was a big-budget film (reportedly made for over $70 million) it was a smash hit and turned in a handsome profit.
REVIEWED ON 2/10/2008 GRADE: A-