Who Framed Roger Rabbit
I think that people take their cartoon heroes for granted. Rich or poor, most children are entertained by art turned slapstick or action for something that would be normally impossible in real life. Now the kind of animation I’m referring to is hand drawn; the kind you need to bring to life using pencils and ink. While I’m glad to see that it’s kind of still around (mostly on television and video games), a whack in the head with a frying pan from Daffy Duck or a botched ski lesson with Goofy came from an era that I probably should have been born in. These cartoons taught us to laugh at the most impossible of situations.
It’s one thing to consider hand drawn animation as a dying art; no body even refers to putting live people alongside cartoons. I understand that animation is hard and that adding a live actor only makes thing worse. But when done right, you get an amazing special effect. Now most blockbusters like Transformers and Star Trek combine computer animated imagery, so I guess the format still lives on. But remember how cool it looked when we got to see an actor picked up by a hand drawn giant or something? The Da Vinci of live action/animation combination was of course, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
In an alternate 1947, cartoons are filmed like traditional movies; toon actors live alongside people as they go into a studio and films their antics just as a real actor will. One struggling toon is Roger Rabbit, who can’t seem remember his lines as well and take a proper refrigerator. At the same time, local private detective Eddie Valiant (played by Bob Hoskins) hates toons, since one killed his brother, and has now become a bitter drunk. He’s assigned to look into a possible affair between Roger’s wife and Marvin Acme, the owner of Toontown. But things take an interesting turn when Acme is murdered in his own gag warehouse.
Roger is a suspect and comes to Eddie for help. He doesn’t want to face Judge Doom (played by Christopher Lloyd), who wants Toontown to destroy it to build a freeway. Eddie talks to other toons like Jessica Rabbit, a human-toon whose then envy of the town, and Baby Herman, and infant with the voice of a gruff fifty-five year old man, and further suspects that Roger may not be a murderer. So Eddie ventures into Toontown to solve the mystery of the murder, and the more sinister plot to destroy the toons.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit continues to be one of my favorite movies of all time. When the film came out in 1988, the film was a groundbreaker not just for Disney or even cartoons, but also for special effects in general. It still looks impressive today to see the toons interact with real objects, like when their holding real guns or when stuff flies out of a drawer when they rummage through it. Little stuff like looks more real then a lot of the modern CGI effects.
Now the film already has a ton of reviews, of people phrasing it’s a masterpiece; why is that so? I think because it also has the benefit of having most real cartoons like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny side by side as cameos. Seeing those Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons together still blows my mind that they were able to make this work. This is the childhood fantasy we’ve always envisioned; all of our favorites working together. It’s special when these major corporate giants can put their differences aside and actually create something magical.
But even then, I still find that a small reason to like the movie. Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd pull off some great performances, which could have not been easy seeing that they were acting alongside nothing as it was being made. Hoskins is the stick in the mud, but still manages to win us over with his sarcastic, yet likably understandable personality. You want to see this guy be won over by the toons. Lloyd still haunts my dreams as Judge Doom. Though it’s no surprise he’s up to no good, you can tell that Lloyd had fun playing this guy. He’s dark and with most of his anger restrained (except for the climax), he creates a villain that’s just scary enough that I would have run the other way if I would see him in real life.
I’ll give this five Benny the Cabs out of five. This blend of a film noir mystery and golden age cartoons is something that cannot be duplicated if someone had all the money and talent in the world. The combined effort of classic story telling, animation and special effects is a gift that was needed when all three seemed to decline in quality. I hope that someone else can come along to once again give us something that justifies why we need to remember hand drawn cartoons and why the make us laugh and cry.