Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

****

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Cartoons walking about as characters in a real movie... surely that can't work? Well, before you prematurely decide "That's all folks", take note that it does. Very well. But then that's what happens when you combine the dream team of director Robert 'Back To The Future' Zemeckis and producer Steven Spielberg (not to mention Disney), as the pair churn out another funny, for-all-the-family megahit.

It's 1947 and humans live alongside cartoons in Hollywood. When 'toon Roger Rabbit is accused of murder after his wife Jessica has supposedly been unfaithful, grumpy private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) uncovers a plot to dismantle the neighbouring Toontown.

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You're probably thinking that this is just a kids' movie - but you'd be wrong. Sure, there are scenes and characters that undoubtedly feel aimed at children and/or rather too much (Valiant's dance late on, any time Roger is on screen), but this cartoon noir is bursting with creation and invention. Though Zemeckis lightened the darker tone from Gary K Wolf's source novel, the result still feels like a hard-boiled, Chinatown-style gumshoe flick mixed with lots of animation and slapstick comedy.

Undoubtedly, while it'll all be too much for some, you can't dispute that Who Framed Roger Rabbit is visually-stunning. Here the cartoon characters aren't just overlaid animations - they feel real and part of the story. Unlike today's CG movies where you can see the actors struggling to perform alongside something that isn't there (helllllo, Star Wars prequels), here Hoskins and some nifty technology sell it all the way, as the toons interact seemlessly with actors, objects and live action. Just brilliant.

What's all the more impressive is that these figures were drawn - and not just added by a computer. Given that Zemeckis also wisely moved the book's setting from nowdays to '47 - the golden era of cartoon making - this means we get plenty of familiar faces. The wide-range of established favourites, such as Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse get amusing throwaway gags - see Betty Boop moaning about animation going colour - the new toons mostly fare well, too. Particularly the Kathleen Turner voiced Jessica. Hubba hubba. As for the humans, Hoskins is sublime and Christopher Lloyd makes for one hell of a scary villain.

Not without its silly and over-the-top moments, Who Framed Roger Rabbit remains a very entertaining technical marvel.

Reviewed on: 11 Jan 2011
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When a cartoon rabbit is accused of murder, his only hope is an animation-loathing gumshoe.
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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writer: Gary K. Wolf, Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman

Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner, Stubby Kaye

Year: 1998

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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