Thursday, 11 September 2008

No.67 : Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Here we go with one of the more famous ‘W’ movies, and another with a question in the title with the supposedly unlucky question mark omitted.

This was a groundbreaking film in it’s time, that saw it marry live action and animation almost seamlessly. Unlike previous films that had attempted this tricky feat, like ‘Bed Knobs and Broomsticks’, the people actually interact with the animations and they inhabit the same universe.

Bob Hoskins stars as Eddie Valliant a drunk private eye who gets his booze money by taking seedy photos of people having too good a time. He used to be in partnership with his brother until he was killed by a piano dropped by a cartoon character or ‘Toon’.

He takes a job photographing cartoon superstar Roger Rabbit’s wife making pat-a-cake with Acme chief Marvin Acme, who soon turns up dead. Roger is in the frame for the crime and faces ‘the dip’ a fatal brew cooked up by the evil Judge Doom. Despite his hatred of toons Eddie agrees to help and the pair have to stay ahead of Doom and his Cadre of evil weasels. When studio boss R.K. Maroon is shot dead it’s clear that more is at stake than first thought, and the whole of Toon Town may be in danger. To save the day Eddie must overcome his hatred of Toon Town and face the man who may be responsible for his brother’s death five years ago.

This is a really hard film to dislike and although it’s magic has faded since I saw it on release it still brought several wry smiles to this old cynic. The opening sequence where a Roger & Baby Herman cartoon is being shot is amazing especially when the human director walks on to chide Roger for having birds rather than stars fly around his head after he’s been clocked by a fridge.

Roger is a poor character to hang the film on as he’s really annoying with his high pitched voice and destructive antics. His wife, Jessica, voiced by Kathleen Turner is a lot better, although she does give uncomfortable images of a woman making it with a rabbit.

Bob Hoskins is pretty good as the weary private dick but the main kudos go to Christopher Lloyd as the maniacal Judge Doom. Of the cartoons I’d have liked Foghorn Leghorn to be in it more but it was good to see Disney and Warner Brothers stars get equal screen time.

The interactions between human and toon weren’t as good as I’d remembered them, with a lot of the time it looking like the cartoon was drawn in later - as if! Look at the bar scene for example - Roger’s drink goes straight out the back of his head. I was surprised at some of the more adult content with Jessica’s ‘booby trap’ and a song with a reference to balls possibly a bit uncomfortable for the parents. Judge Doom was also pretty scary and the murder of Maroon and the deaths of the weasels all seemed a bit incongruous with a kid’s film. I know they like to put in the odd bit for Mum & Dad, but I was scared!

The animations were great although not always totally consistent. When you see the characters gather at the end many look a lot different from their incarnations earlier in the film. Some things I liked were the madcap Acme factory and seeing that bloke out of ‘The Ritz’ in the bar.

The themes of tolerance and our old friend redemption weren’t overblown and there were enough laughs in this fast paced crowd pleaser to keep me happy.

Best Bit : Watch out for the steamroller!

‘W’ Score : 17/23

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