Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1998) (PG)

I think people who just see "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" as a cartoon/live action movie are missing a lot. There's a deep struggle in "Roger Rabbit"—alcoholism, death, betrayal, adultery, schemes. It's all one giant, colorful mockery and air-blown kiss to the noir style of the golden age of Hollywood, in which it is sent and that makes its humor that much funnier, its sentimentality that much more potent, and its zany-ness (totally a word) all the more digestible.
The movie begins with a certain acknowledgement that this is not going to be your typical kid's movie. Slapstick comedy that defies physics in cartoons is replaced by a human appearance and the viewer begins to understand: cartoons and humans are here existing in the same world. Except that cartoons are still cartoons and humans are still humans. Perhaps a parody of racism in the age of film, "Roger Rabbit" has the toons living in Toonville while humans still basically run the city.
Enter P. I. Eddie Valiant, (Bob Hoskins) a man with a troubled past and a taste for whiskey. He has been asked by a studio head to do an investigation on the wife of Roger Rabbit—one of the studio's biggest stars. This investigation takes him downtown and he catches Jessica Rabbit, famously voluptuous and sensual, in an awkward position.
The photos of her are thought to end the entire situation until dead men start showing up, Roger Rabbit is being pursued for murder, and a last will disappears.
The set up for "Roger Rabbit" is brilliantly noir and remarkably tongue in cheek, but that's not the movie's strongest moment. If you really analyze the plot, you may be disappointed by the holes in it or the narrative discrepancies that are actually fairly uniform with the noir genre. Instead, the joys of the movie are actually in its special effects. The way animation and live action are paired with each other is no joking matter. The stunts are pulled off so perfectly that it becomes believable that toons and humans are interacting with each other.
As Valiant tries to dig deeper into the conspiracies, he butts heads with Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), an anti-toon man who likes order. He has developed a potion that will kill toons, who were previously thought to be invincible.
As Roger, Charles Fleischer does a great job with voice acting (he's a talent that is used multiple times in the movie) and sets himself apart while still paying homage to the Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse like characters.
Speaking of such animation icons, this is one of the few times that you'll see Warner Brothers and Disney characters sharing the same place, particularly because they are so iconic. I cannot imagine such a movie taking place today, because it would require all sorts of merchandise and then marketing, it would be a mess. Seriously, think about it, Shrek and Elsa meeting...that's never gonna happen.
This lightning in a bottle uniqueness to "Roger Rabbit" makes it all the more special and Robert Zemeckis spared no expense. This is him at the peak of his powers, even probably sleeker than such crowd pleasers as "Forrest Gump". Zemeckis knows how to make a blockbuster and "Roger Rabbit" shouldn't be anything else.
It's very smart, it's very aware of itself and it's a ton of fun.

Score: ★★★½

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