a critiQal film review Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

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Plot: It's 1947 Hollywood, and Eddie Valiant (Hoskins), a down-on-his-luck detective, is hired to find proof that Marvin Acme (Kaye) is playing hanky-panky with femme fatale Jessica Rabbit, wife of Maroon Cartoon superstar Roger Rabbit. When Acme is found murdered, all fingers point to Roger, and the sinister, power-hungry Judge Doom (Lloyd) is on a mission to bring Roger to justice.

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Up next on Retro Review Saturday: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the historic film that managed to combine live action and animation seamlessly – or at least, better than previous films like Mary Poppins. But, while this may have wowed viewers back in ’88, could the film have withstood the test of time, or is this live-action/animation combo better left in filmdom’s past?

Bob Hoskins, who would go on to star in family-friendly Hook (1991) (opposite Robin Williams) and the impressive Unleashed (2005) (with Jet Li and Morgan Freeman), does a decent job in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, playing a boiler-plate gumshoe from the 40’s. He’s the straight man to his wild-and-crazy “partner”, Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer), and, even though he’s mostly acting against nothing, does a fine job of keeping the viewer believing he’s interacting with Roger. It’s a tough role, especially back in ’88, but he does it with style.

Christopher Lloyd returns from his Back to the Future (1985) adventures to take on the role of Judge Doom, the nefarious foe of the pic. He does a decent job, but he’s constantly overshadowed by the zany antics of the animated characters, and doesn’t quite get the film as easily as co-star Hoskins. Then again, his character isn’t fleshed out nearly as much, so he doesn’t have quite as much to go on either.

Of course, the most famous character to come out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? isn’t the live actors or even Roger himself. It’s the sultry animated femme fatale known as Jessica Rabbit. Voiced by a husky Kathleen Turner (who was uncredited in the film), steals many of her scenes, and her line “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way” remains among filmdom’s most classic lines.

The combination of live-action and animation had been done before (most noticeably in the afore-mentioned Mary Poppins), but never to the extent that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? took it to. Whether it’s on the set of a movie studio or having live characters totally immersed in the all-animation “Toontown”, the film creates a constant series of interactions between live characters and their animated counterparts. It’s still impressive, even to this day, even though the viewer may be able to spot the issues a bit more easily since the proliferation of CGI.

The plot, while starting off a bit nonsensically. finds it’s pace as the film progresses, and finishes off with a nice flourish. True, there are a few plot holes that are never quite explained, but overall, it’s not as bad as one might expect from an 80’s film.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? remains as iconic a film today as it did back when it was released in 1988. The pains the filmmakers went through to create such a marvelous blend of live-action and animation is still impressive today, even if some of it’s flaws are a bit more noticeable. Toss in the sultry Jessica Rabbit, a decent plot and (to date) the only easy mingling of both Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Disney’s classic characters, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? remains just as entertaining today, nearly 30 years after it’s release.

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