Monday, July 4, 2011

Classic Review: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Director: Robert Zemeckis, otherwise known as the God of 80s Movies
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Kathleen Turner, Charles Fleischer

"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."
-Jessica Rabbit

Blending cartoons with live people in movies is a weird idea. But back when it started out…it was still a weird idea. But strong writing and a lot of charisma catapulted this oddball of a movie, titled Who Framed Roger Rabbit, to become quite a memorable and interesting flick that people still talk about today. Let’s take a look.

First off, there’s one thing that really bothered me about this movie, and it’s the DVD menu. Basically it’s set up in a very gimmicky, fun way to go along with the story of the movie. It looks like you’re sitting in the movie’s talking car, Benny, who provides witty commentary. That’s OK I guess, but then all the menu options are named after things from the movie. At first I was like, OK, this will all make sense once I’ve actually seen the thing…well, nope, it’s like they just randomly named everything for no reason other than to have it themed after the movie. It’s not terrible, and at least they were trying to make it fun, but I kind of wish they had just skipped all of this stuff and just given us a straightforward menu. I mean, I had trouble even finding the subtitles menu and the select scene one.

OK, all complaining aside, the movie is pretty great. The plot is basically this: Cartoons and reality are intermixed and each has their own politics and cities to live in. A cartoon star, Roger Rabbit, is framed for the murder of a high profile politician, which leads a grumpy detective and a voluptuous female cartoon companion to go and set things right, getting into a ton of mayhem and madness all the way. It’s a mix between Looney Tunes and film noir. Did you ever think you’d see that before the first time you popped this into your VCR back in the 90s? Probably not.

Really the reason this film is good is just because it’s creative and keeps your attention, nothing more. It’s a good, fun story, with a lot of energy to everything about it. You can tell they were having a ton of fun making this movie, as it shows in every scene. The thing about this is that it is funny – very much so, at times – but the humor seems to be naturally ingrained into the world of the movie itself, instead of forced on us through verbal jokes and slapstick, although there are some of those as well. This is a world that is funny in and of itself. That’s kind of interesting about this.

The acting is generally decent to good, with the main characters being the best ones. Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant, the grumpy detective I mentioned above, is a good one, and Christopher Lloyd as the evil Judge Doom is good, although he raises a few questions. How does one become a judge of doom? Do they really just elect judges this crazy in this world? I guess it fits the themes of corruption and 80s seediness though. I sure wouldn’t want him judging my case. Charles Fleischer deserves special mention, too, as he voiced several characters in this movie, including the titular Roger Rabbit, and also Benny, as well as a few others. He’s really talented and has a knack for making very different sounding, very goofy voices, and he brings us some of the film’s funniest parts.

Everyone always talks about Jessica Rabbit, the sexiest cartoon alive, and for good reason. She was specifically constructed to be that way, like a middle finger toward everyone’s perceptions of what is attractive. The way she flaunts her unnaturally curvy body and talks in that low, sultry voice…damn. It’s pretty hard not to anticipate every scene she’s in. She’s just a cartoon! But let loose your dignity for a second and try to tell me with a straight face that she isn’t at least a little bit sexy anyway. Kathleen Turner does an admirable job as her, too.

The film just sort of hooks you in. It keeps the punches rolling and remains very watchable all the way through – the most basic kind of enjoyment. There isn’t a boring moment. The plot has a ton of mysteries and goofy, imaginative cartoon stuff to make sure you’re kept on your toes at all times. There’s a lot of completely zany things going on at all times and I really like how creative they got with some of the animation and ideas. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as a well told story, with the blend between wacky cartoons and film noir being so odd and out of left field that it just becomes awesome. If you like creative movies, you’ll like this, but you’ve probably already seen it anyway. These were just my own ramblings. Take them as you will.