Friday, March 01, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) ***

PG, 104 min.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, Gary K. Wolf (novel)
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Stubby Kaye, Alan Tilvern
Voices: Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner, Lou Hirsch, Mae Questel, Mel Blanc, Tony Anselmo, Mary T. Radford, Joe Alaskey, David Lander, June Foray, Russi Taylor, Richard Williams, Wayne Allwine, Tony Pope, Frank Sinatra

I was never as taken with “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” as many others seemed to be. I always felt it was loud and messy. It is, but I’m not so sure that’s a flaw anymore. I don’t think the zaniness of cartoons like Looney Tunes are necessarily successful because of those traits, however. Robert Zemeckis seemed to think that was the essence of cartoons in his 1988 live action/cartoon hybrid.

What I missed about the film when I was younger was its homage to the history of both cartoons and cinema. Just about every famous cartoon character that ever graced a screen before this film was made is referenced in some background of this movie somewhere, but a great deal of classic cinema is referenced as well. When I was 15, I wouldn’t have noticed that Valiant hangs his hat on the Maltese Falcon in his office, for instance.

The truth is this is a fairly good gumshoe detective story. It has all the calling cards of classic noir. The innocent man accused. The damaged hero. The femme fatale who is nothing what she seems to be. The scene-chewing villain. It’s a good introduction to the genre for people needing a slightly juvenile push. And, it is amazing that Disney was able to use all those other companies’ properties. Those Looney Tunes are the most obvious crossovers. Others might have been public domain at that time. I don’t really know.

I suppose Warner Bros. insisted Disney release it under their Touchstone subsidiary so their Bugs and friends didn’t appear in a movie under the Disney moniker. However, the material is much rougher than what Disney liked to turn out under its own logo at the time as well. Whatever the case, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is a unique and significant film for the shared cartoon properties alone. I mean when else are you going to see Donald and Daffy in a piano battle? This is the only place.

No comments: