Who Framed Roger Rabbit: A Parody-Noir For The Ages

Zemeckis manages to lampoon all the relevant noir tropes without ever getting disrespectful of them
Who Framed Roger Rabbit: A Parody-Noir For The Ages

Crafted as a hybrid of live-action and traditional animation, Robert Zemeckis' noir parody Who Framed Roger Rabbit is set in a fictional 1947 Hollywood, with Toontown (where all the toons live) as one of its districts. The late great Bob Hoskins — who, judging from the making-of featurettes, had to do most of his talking to rubber puppets, robotic contraptions and thin air — kills it as Eddie Valiant, an alcoholic cynical and toon-hating private detective who's out to investigate the murder of an industry bigwig — the owner of Acme Industries, whose biggest customer happens to be someone named Wile. E. Coyote. And Valiant had previously caught the guy in a rather "incriminating" position with the film's femme fatale, Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Kathleen Turner), who also happens to be the wife of the titular rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer). Joining him in the investigation is Roger Rabbit himself (who's been framed for the murder) so that he can have his name cleared and his wife back. The film also stars Christopher Lloyd as the cartoony over-the-top villain Judge Doom who's out for Roger's blood (if there's such a thing), and Joanna Cassidy as Eddie's waitress girlfriend Dolores who actively assists him in the investigation. In addition to the murder mystery, the film also has some kind of shady conspiracy going on in the background, which involves streetcars, another industry bigwig and Toontown itself.

I guess this film is the peak of Zemeckis' creative and witty genius, which sadly has taken a turn for the worse post Forrest Gump. He and his team of writers manage to lampoon all the relevant noir tropes without ever getting disrespectful of them, ably assisted by the totally game live-action and voice casts. However, it's the film's visual style, which employs seamless (for the time) fusion of live-action and cartoon, that emerges as the biggest star of the film. Sure, it looks a bit dated (especially the scenes which involve a lot of obvious bluescreening and wirework), but is still way better than even some recent blockbusters which feature painfully obvious CGI characters/settings. The film also features numerous iconic cartoon characters from both Warner and Disney stables in cameo appearances (now an impossible feat) along with the ones created for the film.

Speaking of the original animated characters, Roger Rabbit looks and acts like the long-lost son of Bugs Bunny (which he actually is, based on the plans for a sequel that never materialized). And Jessica… well, she is "not a bad girl, it's just that she's been drawn that way", except for a few moments where she displays real horror, she always seems to find something erotic even in the gravest of situations. The other memorable ones include Judge Doom's weasel squad, Benny the trustworthy yellow cab and last but not the least, Baby Herman, the 3-year-old co-star who in reality, happens to have the voice and libido of a 50-year-old. Alan Silvestri's dynamic score — ranging from faux-noir jazz all the way to the cymbal-banging loony tunes — perfectly accompanies the events in the film.

The film was released during the 80s (1988 to be exact), a time when the name 'Robert Zemeckis' under the director's credit of a film pretty much guaranteed a lot of fun for the family. Who Framed Roger Rabbit too follows the same norm, albeit with quite a lot of risque moments and one-liners which frankly push — and even threaten to break apart — the boundaries of its PG rating. And there's the fact that the film starts with the "Touchstone Pictures" logo rather than the Walt Disney one, which alone should be one big clue that the film is not one among the kiddie flicks.

The film is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

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