Summer Movie Showdown: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" Review

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A toon hating detective is a cartoon rabbit's only hope to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder.
3.5

Summer Movie Showdown: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" Review

-- Rating: PG
Length: 104 minutes
Release Date: June 22, 1988
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Animation/Comedy/Crime

Films like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" don't come along very often, but when they do, they leave a lasting impression. Renewing interest in Western animation and being cited as a major influence in the so-called Disney Renaissance-which included hits like "The Little Mermaid," "The Lion King," and "Aladdin"-"Roger Rabbit" blended animation and live action in a story that was both smart and funny throughout.

Based on the novel "Who Censored Roger Rabbit?" by Gary K. Wolf, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" tells the story of Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer), a cartoon rabbit who can't seem to get anything right. Roger works for Maroon Studios, a cartoon studio run by a man named R. K. Maroon (played by Alan Tilvern) who cares about not only his actors but also the cartoon community of Toontown as well. Concerned that Roger's wife Jessica (voiced by Kathleen Turner, though her role was uncredited) is having an affair, Maroon hires a toon-hating private eye named Eddie Valiant (played by Bob Hoskins) to investigate.

Eddie collects evidence of Jessica's infidelity in the form of photos of her playing patty cake with Marvin Acme (played by Stubby Kaye), the owner of the toon-oriented Acme Corporation and of Toontown itself. He shows the photos to Roger in a fairly memorable flip-book scene, causing Roger to go crazy and disappear into the night. When Acme turns up dead the next day, toon-hunting enforcer Judge Doom (played by Christopher Lloyd) and his gang of weasel thugs take up the chase to find the wayward rabbit and bring him to justice for Acme's murder.

Things aren't always as they seem, of course, and Roger turns to Eddie for help because there's no one else that he can trust. This puts Eddie squarely on the wrong side of Judge Doom, dragging him into a conspiracy of massive proportions that forces him to not only question everything that's going on around him but also confront the underlying reason for his hatred of toons as well. Despite how much he loathes Toontown, Eddie finds himself in the position of being the only one who has a chance of saving it from destruction.

Some groundbreaking films like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" age gracefully, while others are amazing in the context of their release but don't really stand the test of time. With the release of the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the film on March 12, 2013, fans of the movie were happy to discover that this film falls squarely into the former category. Despite being twenty-five years old, the animation and character interactions still seem fairly fresh; this is due in large part to the extent that the filmmakers went to during filming to combine the real and cartoon worlds, using body doubles, puppets, and other stand-ins to make sure that the human actors and the toons interacted appropriately.

That's not to say that the film was perfect, of course. As with any movie, especially one that's treading headlong into unexplored territory, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" has its flaws. The opening animated sequence, for example, is marvelously done but the shift from it into the real world isn't completely seamless. This is due to technical limitations, of course, as there was only so much that could be done to make a studio set look like a cartoon kitchen, but there are a few such moments where the immersion in this otherwise delightful fantasy world slips just a little.

Even with the occasional slip, however, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" definitely has a lot more hits than misses. Most of the film is clever and well-animated, with writing that is generally appropriate for all audiences. A few jokes take on a slightly more mature meaning as an adult than they did twenty-five years ago, but the innuendo isn't so severe that they aren't appropriate for younger viewers. That's actually one of the strengths of the film: it's enjoyable for both children and adults, even if in some parts they might enjoy it in slightly different ways. The writing is sharp enough and smart enough that it neither seems too mature nor too juvenile regardless of your age when you watch it.

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is a great experience for those who are reliving the magic of years ago and for a new generation that's discovering it for the first time. It hasn't become outdated in the twenty-five years since its release, and with both the film and the Roger Rabbit shorts that accompany it being digitally remastered, it looks better than ever before.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5