Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
30 YEARS ON: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? may be my generations introduction to satire. Introduced to kindergarteners throughout the 90s as kids fare, this often hilarious, occasionally brilliant, somewhat emotionally scarring blend of animation and live action targets noir and pop culture in ways that has outlasted the majority of 1988 releases. Based on a mostly unknown novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, the Robert Zemeckis directed, Spielberg produced film is the only collaboration between Looney Tunes and Disney and has seemed into annual couples costumes for voluptuous women and their leporine partners. The numbers two movie of 1988 (only topped by Best Picture winner Rain Man) features a typically grumpy Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant, a gruff private investigator hired to spy on a Roger’s possibly cheating wife Jessica Rabbit, Hoskins plays the tough guy with little extra as he battles with his prejudice against toons. Jessica–or Ms Rabbit if ya nasty–is a curvy nightclub singer part-Marilyn, part-vixen. Voiced by Kathleen Turner, Jessica Rabbit has survived as an icon for women suspected of misdeeds due to their looks. “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way,” she protests at the accusation she’s stepped out on her husband. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover; a recurring theme in the film.
Facing off against the increasingly deranged Judge Doom, portrayed by the typically nutty Christopher Lloyd, the film took on a distinct unsettling quality. As Valiant and Roger rush around ToonTown, the sly, mysterious encounters from a cigar smoking baby to gun toting weasels to disgraceful dive bar denizens challenge the duo’s quest to save the cartoon characters. Filled with some cringe worthy moments (most notably a musical sequence created to loosely tie Valiant to a more toon-friendly time), the film was still revolutionary for its blend of effects ahead of the heavy use of CGI. Hoskins wrestles with Roger multiple times, and the sets are custom made for the sight gags and cartoon antics in the 1947-set production. Featuring Betty Boop and a Mary Poppins dancing penguin as servers in Jessica Rabbit’s nightclub made me so happy. The film is a joy, even if thoroughly antiquated.
My sister wrecked a VHS tape repeatedly watching this movie, and with the gun violence, promises of genocide, and bug-eyed insanity that was Doom, it’s a wonder parents flocked to this movie. But flock they did! And now Millennials are ever tied to this piece of our youth. Never again will we have Daffy and Mickey sharing the stage, and we can thank Spielberg for even more of my youth. Now with the popularity of films like Paddington and Peter Rabbit and the surge of reboots, I wouldn’t be surprised if a long rumored sequel could be in the works (but let’s grab some Gremlins first if we’re revisiting 80s kitsch). Who else still has nightmares about that high pitched death squeal?