Words by Blythe Alspaugh
When I was growing up, I watched “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” so many times that my mom eventually hid the tape because she was sick and tired of watching the same thing over and over again. While I don’t watch it as frequently today, it’s still a favorite of mine.
The film is based on Gary K. Wolf’s novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?” and centers on Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), a washed-up detective who works in California and has a strong dislike for toons. Roger Rabbit’s employer, R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern), hires Eddie to investigate the reason Roger (Charles Fleischer) is so distracted and can’t deliver when filming cartoon shorts. Rumors are circulating that Roger’s wife, Jessica Rabbit, is having an affair. Eddie seeks her out at the Ink and Paint Club and takes incriminating pictures of her and Toon Town owner Marvin Acme. The next day, Acme is found dead and Roger Rabbit is framed for his murder. Roger seeks out help from Eddie in clearing his name, and the two set off to figure out who’s behind the murder and find Acme’s will so Toon Town can go back to the toons—all the while avoiding the wrath of Judge Doom and his band of cartoon weasels.
Released in 1988, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” is a collaboration between Disney Studios and Steven Spielberg, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and animated by Richard Williams. It’s the first film of it’s kind to merge cartoon animation with live action film, and it’s a beautiful mixture. Roger Rabbit and his fellow toons interact with real, physical actors and objects. They look three-dimensional and appear to occupy real space. This blurred the line between imagination and real life—and was all pulled off in the late ‘80s, which is pretty incredible when you think about it through a technological scope.
Technology aside, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” was my favorite movie growing up. I remember thinking Toon Town was real and cartoon characters functioned in the same capacity as other actors. When I found out that wasn’t the case, my disappointment was crushed in the same way it is when one finds out Santa Claus is not real.
For me, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” still holds up to this day. The slapstick humor and vaudeville comedy merges with a 1940s film noir aesthetic style for a film that distinctly stands out among a variety of films that sit in the same category. The jokes that made me laugh as a 4-year-old still make me laugh now, and in true Zemeckis fashion, things that are set up and seen at the start of the film make their appearance in the climactic sequence. Likewise, the scare factor in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” pushes the envelope just the right amount. The scene where Judge Doom dips an animated shoe into dip (made from paint thinners), causing it to scream until it disintegrates was terrifying to me as a child, and it’s still disturbing when you break it down as an adult.
“Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” has a wide audience appeal and keeps the viewer engaged and laughing throughout the film. As such, I’m giving it four and a half out of five stars.