The amount of layers with which this next film is brilliant on is what makes it a marvel.
We say that movies are “fun for ALL ages” quite often. I honestly believe there is no better truth or way to describe this next film. It has everything: excellent dialogue, a well crafted plot, suspense, great acting, wonderful set pieces, and cartoons…?
Yes, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” might be one of the most daring projects ever undertaken by a film company.
Now, before I go off on how amazing this movie is, I have a confession to make. At the time of its release in ’88, I was in emotional movie limbo. I was turning eleven and I was starting to be influenced by friends at school who were “too cool” for cartoons. I also regrettably did not know who the late great Bob Hoskins was at the time and was not excited to see the film with him in all of the trailers. Well, I knew who he was after this movie and I appreciated this movie for what it was about 10 years later.
It is a masterpiece.
We have a gumshoe plot set in a world where “Toons” (Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Daffy Duck, etc.) live in our world and are actors and performers just like any other in Hollywood. They reside in Toon Town and interact with live action people all throughout Los Angeles. This premise alone is quite an undertaking, but to have the writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman get the dialogue tone and the plotting as perfect as they got is another layer of remarkable. Add in the acting of Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd (the two live action people that engage with the “Toons” the most) and you have almost everything you need as a director. Robert Zemeckis had his hands full on this picture, but he wasn’t unfamiliar with big budget films (“Romancing the Stone” and “Back to the Future” just to name a few of his smaller big budgets…*wink, wink*).
I feel that there was also a part of my subconscious that wanted to hate this movie because Zemeckis delayed the completion and release of the “Back to the Future” sequels in order to complete this project. In retrospect, brilliant move. The eleven-year-old me did not think so.
The “props” department for this film also should be given accolades for adding to the performances by Hoskins and Lloyd. They created 3-D objects that responded to the action the way the cartoons were supposed to on the page. For example, Hoskins wore a spring-loaded metal object shaped like a rabbit that popped out of his shirt on cue like Roger was supposed to in the scene where he hides him under his trench coat. They would later add the animation over the props in post production on Hoskins best take.
Spectacle aside, you have to tell a decent story to be remembered. I feel that they did an excellent job. There are murder mystery elements, characters that return from someone’s haunted past, and multiple reveals that are hard to see coming but make sense after we add it all up.
Oh, I forgot to mention Jessica Rabbit…failure on my part. She is voiced by none other than Kathleen Turner. You all know my infatuation with this woman at this point if you have read previous posts…not gonna lie to you, this movie helped that along.
In the end, a lot of this movie will be remembered for its animated visuals paired very well with its live action counterparts. That is great, but this is also a movie with a lot of originality, intrigue, suspense, and above all, heart.
Where else could you see a taxi cab character open the door of a real car, get into the driver’s seat, and drive the car?