Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Who Framed Roger Rabbit?</strong> (1988)

(Second viewing, On DVD, March 2018) I remembered enough of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to know that it was a good movie, but I had forgotten what made it a great one. It clicks on several levels, whether you’re looking for simple slapstick comedy, an imaginative fantasy, an ode to cartoons or a homage to noir movies. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the film is its legacy. I’m old enough to remember how groundbreaking the movie was in meshing cartoon characters with live-action actors, which seems old hat in a contemporary cinematic landscape where reality is infinitely malleable and blockbuster movies are routinely computer-generated from beginning to end. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? gave rise to an industry matching imaginary characters with real actors, but it remains so successful as to warrant a look even today. The character of Roger Rabbit is funny enough (his insistence on the Rule of Funny is good for some of the film’s biggest laughs), but add in a classic grizzled detective played in a career-best performance by Bob Hoskins, and the sultriest of femme fatales with Jessica Rabbit (She’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way) and you’ve got something that approaches iconic archetypes. Director Robert Zemeckis has always been interested in pushing the cinematic state of the art, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit? has stood the test of time better than just another gimmicky film. (Heck, The Polar Express has aged more badly than its 1988 predecessor).  I can name a handful of scenes from the movie that all warrant viewing, from the Duck Piano Duel to the Toontown visit to the “Patty Cakes” sequence to the crazed taxi pursuit to the first scene with Judge Doom. (Parents take note: That scene is the reason why the film is suggested for adult audiences. I had to deal with a crying 6-year old when she got interested in the film’s cute cartoons and ended up watching the infamous shoe bath sequence. To my defence, I did not intend to have her watch that sequence—she happened to walk in the room at a bad time.)  As a fan of noir film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? does happen to nail down several of the genre’s idioms and particular pleasures … perhaps better than many neo-noir earnest attempts. All told, I’m really glad I had an excuse to revisit the film: It’s still a lot of fun and hasn’t aged nearly as much as I was expecting.

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