Film: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Cover image

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Distributor: Disney Home Video

It’s 1947 Hollywood, and Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), a down-on-his-luck detective, is hired to find proof that Marvin Acme, gag factory mogul and owner of Toontown, 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 (Christopher Lloyd) is on a mission to bring Roger to justice. Roger begs the Toon-hating Valiant to find the real evildoer and the plot thickens as Eddie uncovers scandal after scandal and realizes the very existence of Toontown is at stake! Who Framed Roger Rabbit is deliciously outrageous fun the whole family will enjoy.


This zany, eye-popping, knee-slapping landmark in combining animation with live-action ingeniously makes that uneasy combination itself (and the history of Hollywood) its subject. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is based on classic L.A. private-eye movies (and, specifically, Chinatown), with detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) investigating a case involving adultery, blackmail, murder, and a fiendish plot to replace Los Angeles’s once-famous Red Car public transportation system with the automobiles and freeways that would later make it the nation’s smog capital. Of course, his sleuthing takes him back to the place he dreads: Toontown, the ghetto for cartoons that abuts Hollywood and that was the site of a tragic incident in Eddie’s past. In addition to intermingling cartoon characters with live actors and locations, Roger Rabbit also brings together the greatest array of cartoon stars in the history of motion pictures, from a variety of studios (Disney, Warner Bros., MGM, Fleischer, Universal, and elsewhere): Betty Boop, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker, Droopy Dog, and more! And, of course, there’s Maroon Cartoon’s greatest star, Roger Rabbit (voice by Charles Fleischer), who suspects his ultracurvaceous wife, Jessica Rabbit (voice by Kathleen Turner: “I’m not bad; I’m just drawn that way”), of infidelity. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Contact), not since the early Looney Tunes’ “You Oughtta Be in Pictures” has there been anything like Roger Rabbit. —Jim Emerson

The words unique and groundbreaking are often bandied around in cinema, but on its original release in 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a genuine landmark in filmmaking. It remains a movie that has lost none of its impact. While many special effects in the cinema have a tendency to date, what is most noticeable here is how vibrant and fresh the combination of real actors and animation still appears. Created long before the days of CGI and other computer-enhanced aids, the hand-drawn characters have a real frisson and life to them that stems from their cartoon heritage (Jessica Rabbit must still rank as one of the all time great screen sex symbols). The human performances are also superb, from Hoskins’ downtrodden PI to Christopher Lloyd’s insane villain. Those experiencing this film for the first time will find as much to enjoy here as those who saw it years ago. —Phil Udell

Barnes and Noble

Who Framed Roger Rabbit has long been one of DVD’s most requested titles, and this two-disc set was worth the wait. A once-in-a-lifetime pleasure, this dizzying and dazzling tour de force combines, like no film before it, live-action and animation. With the loving craft of Disney, the outrageous humor of Warner Bros. cartoons, and the anarchic spirit of animator Tex Avery, this looney homage to film noir and animation’s golden age conjures up Hollywood, circa 1947, and a delirious parallel cartoon universe, Toontown, where beloved “toons” born of pen and ink in the 1930s and ‘40s reside. Here, and nowhere else, will you see Donald Duck and Daffy Duck sharing the same stage and Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny as prank-playing partners. Heading the human cast is Bob Hoskins as down-and-out private eye Eddie Valiant, who is investigating the murder of Toontown owner Marvin Acme. The prime suspect is toon star Roger Rabbit, whose impossibly curvaceous wife, Jessica (indelibly voiced by Kathleen Turner) has been seen playing patty-cake (literally) with Acme. Or was it Jessica herself? (“I’m not bad, Mr. Valiant,” she purrs, “I’m just drawn that way.”) Or was Acme’s murder part of a more diabolical plot that could erase Toontown from the map? Animation buffs especially will delight in the sly in-jokes (“Walt sent me,” is the password into the Pen and Ink nightclub) and cameo appearances by such classic toons as Betty Boop, Yosemite Sam, and Dumbo. Hopping with entertaining extras, this set does full justice to this pioneering breakthrough and heartfelt labor of love. “Family Friendly” Disc 1 contains the full-screen version of the film, a segment about the making of the film, and the Roger Rabbit short subjects, “Tummy Trouble,” “Rollercoaster Rabbit,” and “Trail Mix-Up.” Disc 2 is for the real “Enthusiast,” with a wide-screen presentation of the Oscar-winning film; optional audio commentary by director Robert Zemeckis, the producers, and the screenwriters; the deleted nightmarish “Pig Head” sequence; fascinating production segments; and a viewing option that offers onscreen text revealing all of Roger Rabbit’s mysteries. This is one of the year’s best DVDs. To quote Roger, p-p-p-lease don’t miss it. Donald Liebenson

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