Goodness me where to begin? The film was based on Gary K. Wolf’s dark novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, which tells the story of detective Eddie Valiant investigating the murder of Roger Rabbit. This exquisite animated feast follows the story of this self same detective (Bob Hoskins) as he seeks to clear Roger Rabbit’s name (Charles Felischer), following his framing for a murder he did not commit, and reunite him with his rather very stunning wife Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner).
Part animation, part film noir, part slapstick comedy, part mismatched buddy movie, part postmodern treatise, director Robert Zemeckis’ and executive producer Steven Spielberg’s valentine to the cartoon heroes of their youth is all astonishing technical know-how in the service of infectious exuberance and pure wonder. Empire
While the film was made in 1988, it was set in 1947, the golden age of cartooning. The costumes, set design and beautiful animation are a true show of strength from Disney. Throughout the film they are showing you quite plainly ‘this is what we can do’. The opening scene’s disaster sequence where Baby Herman was crawling around the kitchen with Roger in tow, trying to avoid injury seemed to go on forever and included a head spinning amount of mishaps. Then something extraordinary happens, the cartoons step out of the animated world and into the real world, seamlessly. Zemeckis’ genius and the raw capabilities of the animation of Disney come alive at this point.
Where Roger Rabbit still amazes today is in just how much the cartoons feel part of the real world, rather than being pasted into it. Nifty mechanical effects (robotic arms, intricate wirework, sets built six feet off the floor to accommodate puppeteers) enabled props to be moved by cartoon characters – who were added in later – giving the dailies the appearance of an Invisible Man movie. Empire
Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) plays an extraordinary villainous figure in this film as Judge Doom. His litany of mafia mongooses follow him as he exacts his twisted version of justice on all those in his path. He is the perfect dark anti-hero to the colourful camp excitement of Roger Rabbit throughout the film. I noticed that the plot had a slight nod to Chinatown, the latter being the apex of the film noir genre. And this brings me to an important point, while being visually staggering throughout, and playful and fun, Who Framed Roger Rabbit remains an excellent, well paced, character rich film. Above all the visual brilliance and noise, the tension and plot development is kept tight throughout. This is a testament again to the director’s genius.
There is much more to be said for this film but the best thing to do would be simply to watch it.