Don’t be fooled by the animated element of the wacky titular character, or the PG rating. The family friendly tone of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ is highly contestable and labelling this film as a dark, fantastical, comedy is perhaps more befitting. In the style of ‘Space Jam’, with a combination of live action and traditional animation techniques, Roger Rabbit is the star of a film which I associated more with the likes of Bugs Bunny and co. as a child. Indeed, when I first watched ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’, as an 8 year old, I loved the slapstick comedy routines. But that was all that I really took from the viewing experience, completely missing the adult themes and deeper meanings within the film.
Roger Rabbit is the star of a cartoon show, within a cartoon film, the big name in the fantasy world of Toon Town. Roger believes his humanised cartoon wife, Jessica Rabbit, is guilty of playing away, so to ease his fears, the head of Maroon Cartoon Studios hires a private investigator. Enter Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), who follows Jessica and discovers her to be partaking in games of ‘pattycake’ with Marvin Acme. When Acme is found crushed under a safe, the finger of blame is pointed firmly at Roger, after his fury at seeing the photographic evidence of his wife’s apparent promiscuity. The fearsome Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) is hellbent on arresting and executing his prime suspect, with the toon-hating Valiant the only man who can clear Roger’s name. Valiant uncovers Judge Doom’s plan to eradicate all toons using his infamous, acidic weapon, The Dip. By emptying Toon Town, Doom plans to create a freeway through the abandoned town and get rich in the process. Never fear however, as Valiant comes to the rescue and gives us a happy ending just in case the kids are watching.
The late Bob Hoskins gives a typically gruff, cynical, bitter portrayal as the lead live action character. As Eddie Valiant, he immerses himself so genuinely into the Toon Town setting, producing a classic, timeless performance which rightfully earned the iconic actor a Golden Globe nomination. Equally as iconic, is Roger Rabbit, a cartoon character who should be ranked alongside the legendary Bugs Bunny. Roger is a cartoon character with a very adult lifestyle and very human problems, including the troublesome wife. The comedy air to the film owes much to Roger for his simultaneously clever yet silly humour. Jessica Rabbit is arguably even more iconic than her husband, the sexy cartoon femme fatale keeps us wondering throughout whether she is bad, or whether she is “just drawn that way”. Christopher Lloyd is eerily effective as the sinister, ruthless Judge Doom, a character which haunted my nightmares as a child and who is just as scary today.
This surreal, paradoxical film, plays on the expectations of the audience, presenting us with classic, animated characters whilst submerging themes of sex, violence, death and crime. The implied meanings of much of the dialogue throughout, is admirably executed, clever moments which I can only really appreciate and understand watching now, as opposed to my first experience 15 years ago. Despite the questionable target audience, this dark and sinister comedy is still a classic, thrilling and dangerously enjoyable movie.
DIRECTOR: ROBERT ZEMECKIS
STARRING: BOB HOSKINS, CHRISTOPHER LLOYD, JOANNA CASSIDY, CHARLES FLEISCHER (VOICE)