The Movie: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
One Sentence Plot Summary: A functioning alcoholic detective solves a murder mystery that also involves sex, real estate, and a corrupt judge who’s actually a cartoon; somehow, this is a kids movie.
Why It’s on the List: This was Robert Zemeckis’s follow-up to Back to the Future. He once again plays with technology in combining live action and animation. I remember seeing this when I was very young, maybe as young as five. I was probably a bit too young given the swearing and the poor cartoon shoe being dipped, but my mind was blown simply seeing all my favorite animated characters in one place. Roger even felt like a full-fledged character as old as Bugs or Mickey despite this being his first appearance.
Zemeckis likes to play in multiple genres within the same film, and he does so again here. The movie has a lot of humor but is also an excellent mystery. Even though Zemeckis is not credited on the script, a lot of important ideas are introduced in act one and again paid off throughout act three, especially the idea of the disappearing and reappearing ink. This is almost as perfect a script and story as Back to the Future even though it is clearly intentioned for younger audiences.
I did not mention Alan Silvestri in the Back to the Future write-up, but his score shines through. It’s somehow distinct yet within the classical motifs he’s used throughout all his best movies. Of all the movies on this list, this might be the film I’ve seen the most. It’s very re-watchable, has an engaging storyline no matter how many times you’ve seen it, and the lead performance is special.
#problematic: *The way Jessica Rabbit is drawn. F
*Eddie Valient overcomes his alcoholism simply by deciding to start caring.
MVP and Best Performance: Robert Zemeckis deserves all the credit in the world for getting Warner Bros. to allow use of their characters in a Disney produced movie, not to mention all the technical know how to make it seem like cartoons were interacting with real people. However, for me, the MVP of this film is, was, and always will be Bob Hoskins. He has to be believable as a hard-drinking but competent private detective while hiding a British accent. His American accent is quite impressive even though the idea of him being from Los Angeles is absurd.
Even more impressively, Hoskins does a lot of the interactions with the animated characters. Minor interactions included Betty Boop, as he showed some signs of not being a complete jerk to toons as well as falling a long way and running into Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. He spends a lot of time reacting, perhaps most impressively while watching Jessica Rabbit.
Rabbit is very much a problematic character in the way she looks and even some of the actions that happen in the film, but Hoskins is able to get across that she is the most attractive…’person’…that he’s ever seen in her initial dancing. Hoskins as Valient also does a lot of scenes with Roger, meaning not only dialogue but a ton of physical humor.
Perhaps Hoskins best scene is saved for the end when he has to perform a song and dance number in order to literally get the weasels to laugh themselves to death. His singing isn’t good, but he throws himself into it and has more excellent physical reactions as he pratfalls and electrocutes himself.
Best Quote: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” – Jessica Rabbit
Is there a sequel? There were a couple of shorts featuring Roger, but there was never a full-fledged sequel. Even though the studio likely would have thrown money as Robert Zemeckis to make it, he never could crack a story, and that’s probably for the best.