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Friday, June 1, 2012

Disneyear: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Now, I’m not 100% sure if I’m cheating with this film or not. I mean It was released by Disney’s sister company, Touchstone Pictures, but it’s often included as a part of the Disney canon. Either way, I decided to get my word across already mentioned to a few people that I was going to view it anyway. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the brainchild of two talented directors: one was Robert Zemekis, a wonderful director who created the real human world and the story. The other, Richard Williams, is an extremely talented animator who usually worked independently now creating the colorful animated world of the titular character. It’s one of the few films out there that not only I like, but everybody loves it too. Let’s investigate this mystery of why that is in Who Framed Roger Rabbit!

Set in 1947 Hollywood, a detective named Eddie Valliant (played by Bob Hoskins) is assigned to snoop around the business of cartoon mega-star Roger Rabbit’s wife Jessica. One problem: he hates toons because a mysterious one killed his brother by dropping a piano on his head (hilariously tragic…). Once he gets some pictures of her literally playing patty-cake with prankster businessman Marvin Acme, an upset Roger vows to make life happy again for the two. The next morning, Acme is murdered and the case is given to the eerie Judge Doom (played by Christopher Lloyd) to investigate. On top of all of this, Toon Town is in danger of possible demolition by a mysterious public transportation company for a freeway unless Acme’s will shows up to protect Toon Town. Everyone believes the number one suspect is Roger Rabbit. Valliant finds Roger in his office but doesn’t believe that he really did it despite his prejudice. So the two set off to prove the rabbit’s innocence and find out who really did it and get a hold of the will with the help of his uber-hot and intelligent wife Jessica, Valliant’s bartender girlfriend Dolores, a crazy Brooklyn-esque taxi cab named Benny, and many more colorful characters.

Honestly, what can I say about this film that everyone else already had? This is a film that everyone just loves to death, even the snobbiest and grumpiest of critics. I mean I like it too. I’m in love with this movie, but I never could figure out why it is that people go crazy for this movie. So what is it? What is it that makes Roger Rabbit do endearing?

Who'dve thunk this guy would be so darn lovable?
Is it the story? Well, the story and all the events that happen are really good. Mesmerizing isn’t a strong enough word for this story. It’s incredibly engaging and fun. However, it’s not that big of a mystery about who killed Marvin Acme. Out of all two of the actors I mentioned in the story, which one sounds like he could be the villain? I’ll give you three guesses who!

Give up yet?
How about the characters? Again, they’re good and fun, but having a story arc around one character having a prejudice and having all these events turn him back to normal is nothing new. It’s been done before but never in a movie where everyone loves to death like this one. But these characters are compelling and are so interesting that you really don't care. They all have good stories behind them.

What about the groundbreaking technologies? I suppose, but there are a lot of groundbreaking films out there that no one goes gaga for like this film. Even the idea of mixing live action with animation is nothing new. Disney’s been doing it ever since the Alice Comedies. But this film does it to it's absolute zenith. This film has the best interaction between cartoons and real people I've seen so far. This comes from great actors and talented animators, of course!

To figure out this mystery, I thought about why I like it. I thought about the characters, the story, and then the animation… wait! The animation? Then I remembered all of the other cartoon characters that we bump into on screen. After all, it’s the only time we see characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny onscreen together.

Surreal, but awesome!
Then I get a random memory about I asking my dad when I was seven or eight what would happen if Daffy and Donald Duck ever meet. I never did get a compelling answer out of him other than, “I dunno”, but it was until when I saw this film when I was around eleven or twelve that it subconsciously struck a chord with me. Then I realized watching it again for this review that it was not just me but everybody must have envisioned this at one point in their childhoods: having all of our favorite cartoon characters come together, meet, and interact with each other. Speaking of that, the film is clever in adding classic cartoon characters instead of modern-day cartoons. It’s not just Disney, but Warner Brothers cartoons, Fleischer Brothers cartoons, MGM, Paramount, Walter Lantz, the list goes on. On top of that, they seem real. They’re the real thing! With the technology they had back then, this film brought our childhood fantasy to life and made these classic characters as real to us now as adults as they were when we were kids. Add a few happy moments, sad moments, romantic, scary, and fun moments with great a great story, great acting, fun music, and fantastic animation in the mix and you have a film that’s a recipe for a perfectly written love letter to our childhoods.

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Bottom line, Roger Rabbit is just amazing. It's one of those films that you need to see before you die. I know some things have been done previously, but it's just presented with such expert craftsmanship and talent behind it that the thought almost never occurs to you. I'd say go see it, but you most likely already have. 

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