Classic Intel: Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Online Review

'If anyone had the gall now to suggest a noir-influenced detective story featuring an insane Rabbit and a dangerously revealing animated sex-bomb, you suspect Hollywood would collectively laugh them out of town'

'This would never get made today' is an old adage, thrown around with abandon, but it is also, when correctly applied, one of the most interesting conceits you can apply to a film in retrospect.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is truly a film that would not get made today. Mixing live action and animation in feature films largely seems to be a fad that has died a death for one. Then there are the today's stringent licencing arrangements; Roger Rabbit manages to somehow get away with featuring creations from several animation studios, from Disney characters to MGM caricatures to, erm, Droopy, created by Hanna Barbera. If anyone had the gall now to suggest a noir-influenced detective story featuring an insane rabbit and a dangerously revealing animated sex-bomb, you suspect Hollywood would collectively laugh them out of town, presumably to the theme tune of Wacky Races.

But, preposterously, Roger Rabbit exists, as does large-breasted, red-haired, femme fatale Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner), a creation which guaranteed this film's iconicity. The original character design of Roger (Charles Fleischer) and Jessica provides the launch platform for the introduction of other more famous names, cunningly used as cameos in a world where 'Toontown' is a thinly veiled parody of the madness of 'real' life and comment on the marginalisation of cartoons, once the realities of adulthood hit the original audience. Note that the scheme to destroy them is one driven by capitalism and, beneath that, a concern for moving vehicles beyond how funny they look when you draw eyes on them.

Leading the whole thing from the human perspective is the recently-retired Bob Hoskins, incredibly game as private eye Eddie Valiant. Never does Hoskins looks awkward or uncertain, instead he throws himself into a role which demands physicality with humour and a willingness to treat Roger and Jessica as character equals. Tellingly, his scenes with Roger (and also an early scene with The Weasels) feel as genuine as his scenes with human compatriot Dolores (Joanna Cassidy), whilst the moments when all three are together are a rarefied joy.

The film makes the mistake towards the end of thinking we care overtly about the wafer thin plot and the 'reveal' of the hoodlums behind it. We don't, they are given too much time to cackle manically and some momentum is lost somewhere around the time Valiant finally makes it in to Toontown itself and the climactic, over-long finale.

Even given this somewhat damp squib of a conclusion, Roger Rabbit is just too zany, too full of natural, unique, charm to discount. This is, in its own way, a remarkable film, something that Hollywood probably doesn't dare repeat.



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