Robert Zemeckis’ Oscar winning film noir, coached in cartoon terms, is the next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Toy Story.
Melding the live action and cartoon world, the film follows detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) as he takes a case he doesn’t even want to be involved in. Someone has framed cartoon star Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer) for murder, and it’s up to Eddie to prove his innocence and bring the real villains to justice. And maybe win the girl, Dolores (Joanna Cassidy) before the end credits?
But it won’t be easy, there’s a femme fatale, Roger’s wife, Jessica (voiced by Kathleen Turner), a terrifying Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), and a trip to Toon Town that, like the rest of Tinsel Town is filled with cartoon cameos.
Eddie has his own issues, he’s a drinker, still trying to recover from the death of his brother (which happened in Toon Town), and ties directly into the film’s events.
With an eye on making the animation blend with the live action, the gags, and the eyelines all seem to be perfectly set up. And, like any good mystery, all the clues, are there from the get-go as to what is really going on.
In terms of toon characters, the film brings together iconic Disney and Warner characters, something that had never been done before (or since).
The climax and the terrifying reveal freaked me out so much when I saw it, and still unnerves me, but that’s all in the actor’s performance.
Constant collaborator Alan Silvestri renders a score that balances both the manic behaviour of the toons and the classic noir detective mournful horns.
It had been a long time since I watched this film, and I was delighted with how it took me in all over again. You can’t help but give your film the suspension of disbelief it needs for you to believe that Roger and Eddie share the screen together.
The film plays with both noir and toon archetypes and cliches, and it works beautifully. And thanks to the advent of DVD and blu-rays, you can now catch all the little toon cameos that you may have only fleetingly seen or missed completely since you last saw this one.
In a lot of ways this plays like a tooni-ified version of Chinatown. There’s politics, murder, seduction, pattycake, and spurts of shocking violence.
Zemeckis likes to push the limits of film and technology, and while some of them are better than others, Roger Rabbit, is a wonderfully entertaining technical achievement.
One has to wonder what a sequel would have been like…