WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, 1988
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Joanna Cassidy, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer
It’s 1947 Hollywood and Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), an alcoholic down-on-his luck private detective, is hired by distraught Cartoon star Roger Rabbit to find out if his gorgeous wife Jessica is playing ‘patty-cake’ – the cartoon version of ‘hanky-panky’ -with his boss, Toontown mogul Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye) and prove he did not kill is love rival. The investigation unexpectedly uncovers the destructive power-hungry plans of evil Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd).
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REVIEW:Directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Steven Spielberg, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ is a 1988 fantasy comedy mixing traditional animation with live-action and elements of film noir. The film is based on the book ‘Who Censored Roger Rabbit’, a novel by Gary K. Wolf. Walt Disney Pictures bought the rights to the film in 1981 and entrusted Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman with the screenplay. Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment did the rest coming on board at the second draft of the script with more money and Zemeckis, who was hired in 1985 as the director of the live-action scenes. Richard Williams was called to direct and oversee the animated sequences.
The film contained from the start all the ingredients for a blockbuster recipe, with an original budget projected at $50 million, reduced to a ‘more realistic’ $29.9 million, making it at the time the most expensive animated film ever produced. But it wasn’t exactly a financial disaster, racking in over $350 million worldwide, repeating the box office success of Zemeckis’ Back to the Future and other blockbusters of the same era.
The movie is visually stunning, captivating, funny, entertaining and full of suspense. Toon top film star Roger Rabbit’s career is going down the drain after discovering his super-sexy wife – frankly an improbable catch for this humble funny rabbit - is playing the good old ‘patty-cake’ trick behind his back and to make matters worst she is doing it with his boss, Toontown mogul Marvin Acme. Roger takes the issue in his own hands and hires fallen-from-grace alcoholic private detective Eddie Valiant to uncover the truth. When his love rival is found dead, Roger Rabbit’s fate rests solely in Valiant’s pseudo-capable hands. Through twists and turns, the investigation slowly and unexpectedly uncovers the destructive power-hungry plans of evil antagonist Judge Doom.
In the field of the animation films genre, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ remains a bit of a landmark, taking us back to a decadent post-prohibitionist Hollywood and the Golden Age of Looney Toons, early Disney cartoons and their unsophisticated two-dimensional, but incredibly funny characters. Set between Toontown and Hollywood, it combines two and three-dimensional character living side-by-side and interacting in the ‘real world’.
It features an exceptional cast in the Toons department. Toontown is in fact populated by extras and walk-ons of the calibre of Bugs Bunny, Dumbo, Tweetie, Daffy Duck, Baby Herman and Mickey Mouse, to name only a few. It also introduces new and improbable Toon heroes, Roger Rabbit of course and his legendary, much misunderstood, devoted wife and part-time sex-bomb Jessica Rabbit.
Roger Rabbit shot to immediate fame after the film release earning overnight a much sought-after spotlight in the firmament of Hollywood stardom. While, following the release of the film on Laserdisc, his improbable wife Jessica found herself at the centre of a sex-scandal involving nudity, some cheeky animators and Laserdisc players in frame-by-frame playing mode. The scandal was first reported by Variety in March 1994. The magazine revealed that playing the film frame-by-frame using a Laserdisc player uncovered subliminal antics cheekily inserted by the animators and featuring brief nudity of Jessica Rabbit’s character.
The trick did not go down too well with a minority amongst the most conservative representatives of the parental community and forced Disney execs to a public apology. Walt Disney Pictures blamed the issue on an ‘animators’ gimmick’. This unfortunate scandal contributed to adding to the notoriety and the mystic of Jessica’s character and confirmed that she has clearly both the assets and charisma to go down in cinematic history as possibly the sexiest, most scandalous Toon ever drawn. Although at the time she protested her innocence declaring in her defence: “ I am not bad, I am just drawn that way”.
In the live-action domain, Bob Hoskins is the undisputed star of the movie. His character is Eddie Valiant, a rough and tough womanizer and private detective, secretly good at heart, but hardened by life, the death of his brother and years of alcohol abuse. His interpretation and interaction with his silly cartoon co-stars, especially Roger Rabbit and Jessica, make for some really quirky and hilarious moments.
This movie remains one of the funniest, most entertaining, imaginative and creative animated films ever made. That’s all folks!