“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”
The Scoop: 1988 PG, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, and Kathleen Turner
Tagline: It’s the story of a man, a woman, and a rabbit in a triangle of trouble.
Summary Capsule: Tough-as-nails detective solves a murder mystery involving a Bugs Bunny lookalike!
PoolMan’s rating: I can make the “p-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-lease” noise Roger makes. I’m so ashamed.
PoolMan’s review: Y’know, it’s no small accomplishment when a movie maker can create a single piece that entertains more than one target audience. Anybody can make a movie for kids, anybody can make a movie for adults, and anybody can make a movie for Mutants. But the most classic and fondly remembered forms of entertainment tend to be the ones that hit all three equally (or at least the first two). You know, the kind of stuff you remember watching as a kid and laughing at, and then when you watch it as an adult, you say “Oh my god! I can’t believe I never noticed THAT before!”. There’s just always something new to see. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is just such an animal, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how well it stands up to its age (and mine).
If you somehow have never heard of WFRR (it was probably the most hyped movie of 1988), the concept was mind numbing at the time. It was among the first movies to believably mix live action and cartoon characters in a live action set (“live action set”, as in don’t write in about Dick Van Dyke dancing with penguins against a cartoon backdrop!). That means the Toons walk around in California just like any other citizens, smoking cigars, firing guns, and smashing plates. Although CG technologies have come a long way since (see Lord of the Rings for a current example of animation in the “real” world), this was probably the big ground breaker that made most of it possible. Through a crazy array of puppetry, machinery, very creative acting, and lots of post production, we get to see the landmark characters of Disney, Warner Brothers, and countless others grace the screen, interacting with each other and the human cast.
The fun of the movie as a kid is obviously the Toons running around. Seeing Donald and Daffy Duck play dueling pianos is a riot. The fun as an adult is getting all the “parents-only” jokes that fly through the air. The story is definitely adult-oriented, involving blackmail, adultery, murder, and lots of other stuff we can’t get Justin to finally admit to. The titular Roger Rabbit is framed for the murder of Marvin Acme, a rich Toon lover and gag merchant who is caught playing “pattycake” with Roger’s wife, Jessica. Grizzled, Toon-hating detective Eddie Valiant is dragged into the conflict as it becomes apparent that there’s more than a lover’s jealousy at play. Will Roger be cleared? Will the Toons be destroyed by Judge Doom’s horrific Dip? Will Bob Hoskin’s accidentally say “Ooga booga” in his Brit accent again? Oh the suspense!
Boiled down, this flick is a great take on old ’40s detective stories with the incredibly creative addition of cartoon characters into the mix, which brings with it all the violently fun charm you’ve come to expect from watching Bugs Bunny cartoons all your life. It’s fourteen years old now, so some of the effects seem just a little dusty, but they’re still quite remarkable considering what was available to director Robert Zemeckis back then. Add in the fact that there’s no end of sexual innuendo and rumored nudity (see Intermission below), and you’ve got something the kids can enjoy right alongside the parents, albeit for vastly different reasons. You’d be “looney toons” to not see it!
- Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame was set to be the original director, but pulled out because he thought the projecct would be too difficult.
- Bob Hoskins watched his young daughter to learn how to act with imaginary characters. He later had problems with hallucinations.
- Rumours abound about whether Jessica Rabbit wears underwear or not. In the original release, there are two notorious scenes where the viewer could see up her dress, under which you could clearly see she was “going commando”. These scenes have been reanimated so white panties can be seen.
- As Eddie is about to fall from the toon building, you can see a scribble of grafitti on the bathroom wall. “For a good time, call Allyson Wonderland”.
- Several voice actors make cameos as the voice of the character(s) they have played before. These are Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck), Wayne Allwine (Mickey Mouse) and Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety Bird). But most noticeable is Mae Questel as Betty Boop. Mae did Betty’s voice from 1930 until the character was retired in 1949.
- When Raoul J Raoul storms off the set of the Baby Herman cartoon, Roger grabs the sleeve of his coat. If you watch carefully, you can see the sleeve rise a little too early, so it “jumps” to Roger’s hand.
- Kathleen Turner, the sultry speaking voice of Jessica Rabbit, was uncredited for the movie. However, Amy Irving and Betsy Brantley (Jessica’s singing voice and body model, respectively) were credited.
- During the scenes where Eddie and Roger are handcuffed together, Bob Hoskins is terrific. Not only is he maintaining his gruff American accent (he’s British), and not only is he having a conversation with an invisible rabbit, he’s also being a puppeteer! The handcuffs on his wrist were welded so the chain stood straight out from his wrist. He then moved his wrist carefully so the motions matched where Roger would later be when the animators drew him in. If you watch his arm carefully, you can see him doing it, but the effect is still wonderful.
- Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Not really. After Porky says “That’s all folks!”, you can go home. In fact, this film set a record for the running time of its end credits – almost eight minutes!
Roger Rabbit: Yeah! The probate! My Uncle Thumper had a problem with HIS probate. He had to take these big pills, and drink lots of water!
Eddie: Not prostate, you idiot! PROBATE!
Eddie: Anybody know you’re here?
Roger: Nobody. Not a soul, except, uh…
Roger: Well, you see, I didn’t know where your office was. So I asked the newsboy. He didn’t know. So I asked the fireman, green grocerier, the butcher the baker, they didn’t know. But the liquor store guy. He knew.
Jessica Rabbit: You don’t know what it’s like being a woman looking the way I do.
Eddie Valiant: You don’t know what it’s like being a man looking at a woman looking the way you do.
Roger: We toons may act idiotic, but we’re not stupid.
Eddie: You mean you could’ve taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?
Roger: Not at any time, Eddie, only when it was funny.
Dolores: Is that a rabbit in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Jessica: I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.
Eddie: I’m sick of taking falls, I’m bouncing off the walls, when I get done I’ll have some fun I’ll kick you in the…
Weasel: That don’t rhyme with walls!
Eddie: No, but this does!
[kicks the Weasel in the crotch]
Eddie: A ladies’ man, eh?
Baby Herman: The problem is, I’ve got a fifty year old lust but a three year old dinky.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Cool World
- Space Jam
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is loosely adapted from the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf. And by loosely I mean it took some character names and one line of dialogue and wrote a completely different story. For instance, Eddie’s dislike of toons came from garden-variety prejudice rather than a tragic incident from his past. As you can probably guess from that statement, the book was a lot darker.
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