Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

I hate to open a review with such a cranky, old man line as “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore”.
So I won’t.
Good to be back everyone! Missed you all and your sweet, ego-affirming pageviews.
Now then.
My hairy BOLLOCKS but they don’t make them like this any more, do they?
Fittingly,given its dual nature, Who Framed Roger Rabbit occupies a special place in both the history of mainstream Hollywood blockbusters and American animation. It’s a central text in what was something of a golden age of the big summer tentpole picture (Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future). But it’s as an animated movies that Roger Rabbit has its real significance. Chances are, if not for this movie a whole load of the films I’ve reviewed here would never have happened. Firstly, let’s take a look at the state of American animation in the late eighties. Theatrical shorts have gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage and the wireless-polisher. Disney feature animation is in a creative rut, and only Ralph Bakshi and a few others, working furtively from a secret rebel base, keep the full length animated film alive as an artform. The vast bulk of animation is now on television, rushed, cheaply produced, schilling for the toy industry and stifled by increasingly conservative broadcast standards for whom anything harder than the Smurfs is pushing the envelope. Large packs of feral dogs roam the landscape, and cannabalism is rife.
Bad times, is what I'm sayin'.

Bad times, is what I’m sayin’.

Disney snapped up the rights to Gary K. Wolf’s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? in 1981 as soon as it hit the bookshelves. Apart from sharing a few character names and some very broad plot points, the book and film aren’t even on speaking terms. The book is set in the present (well, the eighties) and Roger and his fellow toons are newspaper cartoons (with Hagar the Horrible, Dick Tracy and other characters making cameos). I haven’t actually read the book but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the movie vastly improves on the source material. For one, having cartoon characters working in the old Hollywood studio system just feels much more organic and setting it in the forties makes it feel more like a film noir. I’m not the only one who thought so either, Wolf’s later novels in the series went out of their way to tie themselves more closely to the movie, even retconning the whole first novel as a dream of Jessica’s.
And if that scene did not involve her stepping out of the shower a lá Bobby Ewing then there is no God.

And if that scene did not involve her stepping out of the shower a lá Bobby Ewing then there is no God.

Robert Zemeckis was attached to direct as early as 1981 but was given the boot by Disney when two of his films tanked at the box office. The project then kicked around the studio for a few years until Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzanbur…Katzenbar…(dammit just once I am going to spell his name right) KATZENBERG stepped in and applied the paddles. Eisner and Herr Skull were united in their belief that Roger Rabbit was going to be the movie to relaunch Disney as the pre-eminent force in American animation. Initially, the idea was that the film’s animated sequences would be done by Disney’s own in-house animation team. Then Eisner took Katzenberg down to the basement where the debased remains of that once great cadre of animators was kept.
“What…what are they?” Katzenberg asked in a strangled whisper.
Eisner simply stared ahead and said: “They were once men.”
Clearly, some fresh talent was going to have to be brought in to pull off what was going to prove to be one of the most technically challenging feats in the history of animation. Canadian-British animator Richard Williams was brought in along with a crack-team of international animators (many who would later be brought in to work on the Disney movies of the renaissance). Williams didn’t want to go to Los Angeles, like any sane person, and insisted on working in London resulting in the entire production being moved to England to accommodate him, hence why most of the live action cast are British.
Zemeckis was also brought back on to direct since in the intervening years he’d gone from “failed director” to “man who can just stand in a room and cause money to rain down at will”.  The international shoot and pioneering special effects combined into the most expensive production for an animated movie that there had ever been, with costs so high that Katzenberg had to talk Eisner out of pulling the plug. When the movie finally rolled into theatres $40 Million dollars over budget there was a whole lot riding on it.

The movie opens with a Roger Rabbit cartoon, with the hapless bunny trying to save Baby Herman in the least-baby proofed kitchen in the history of Western civilization. The opening title of the cartoon very obviously apes the Looney Tunes shorts, but the actual cartoon itself feels more like a classic Tom and Jerry with their extreme violence and women who consistent entirely of legs.
Mammytwoshoes
One complaint that got levelled at the movie when it came out first was that the opening short is so good that it upstages the rest of the movie. I’m actually going to commit heresy here and say that the short is actually my least favourite part of the movie. Firstly, while it’s trying to pass itself off as a lost short from the Golden Age, Williams just can’t resist showing off and there are shots here that would have blown through the entire budge of a cartoon of the era in mere seconds. Secondly, Roger (Charles Fleischer) is great as a foil for Eddie Valiant, but as a lead character he’s…kinda insufferable. Sorry. That may just be me but I can’t really dig his shtick. I get the feeling that if Roger had been an actual character from the era he’d never have made it big in the States.
He would have KILLED in France, though.

He would have KILLED in France, though.

Anyway, the cartoon comes to an abrupt halt when a fridge gets dropped on Roger and instead of seeing stars he sees birds. The director, Raoul J. Raoul chews him out and Roger begs him for another chance but he storms off set. Incidentally, that’s legendary producer Joel Silver in an uncredited cameo as Raoul. He was cast secretly purely to dick with Michael Eisner who hated Silver (presumably because he could predict the future and saw Matrix: Revolutions coming). Eisner, when he was finally told long after filming had finished, simply shrugged and said “He was pretty good”, thereby ensuring that anyone who tells that story has a really lame ending.
Well played Mr Eisner. Well Played.

Well played Mr Eisner. Well Played.

Anyway, while Roger whales on himself with a frying pan, desperately trying to create stars, a figure in a trench-coat and fedora takes a swig from a hip flask and mutters to himself: “Toons.” Ladies and gentlemen, meet Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins).
Zemeckis and Spielberg (who produced) originally wanted Bill Murray to play Eddie Valiant. They tried to offer him the part by the usual method of going to the mound in Central Park where the red box is buried, unearthing it, using the amulet inside to find the special tree where the dwarf lives, answering his riddles three, and leaving a copy of the script (neatly handwritten on sheaves of yellow paper in Croatian, naturally) in the dwarf’s care after hopping around on one leg chanting “Billy Murray! Bill Murray! Lord of the Tree! Do our movie for a nominal fee!” ”. However, they didn’t tickle the dwarf’s chin as they left, meaning Bill Murray never got the script (something he would bitterly regret years later). Also, the dwarf claimed Spielberg’s first born son as tribute. Frickin’ Hollywood, man.
In all seriousness, hes legendarily difficult to get in touch with.

In all seriousness, he’s legendarily difficult to get in touch with.

Instead, they ended up casting Bob Hoskins in the main role, which would become the defining role of his career. Hoskins was a phenomenal, exceptional actor. Maybe one of the all-time greats. He had an amazing ability to suggest a character’s inner life. Take a look at this scene from the Long Good Friday. Hoskins basically holds the camera for almost two wordless minutes and you can read every thought going through his character’s mind.
 Eddie Valiant, on paper, is a stereotype, a boozy P.I. with a chip on his shoulder. But Hoskins brings layers to this character and then stacks layers on the layers. And that’s without even considering that he spends most of his time interacting with thin air. You never doubt for a minute that this man is actually being dragged around by a giant white rabbit because Hoskins commits to it totally, utterly and unstintingly. Dude’s a legend.
So Valiant’s been called to Maroon Cartoon Studios by R.K. Maroon himself for some P.I. work. Maroon tells him that Roger can’t focus on set because he’s worried about his wife Jessica. Jessica is having an affair with Marvin Acme, the owner of Toon Town (the city’s cartoon district) and Maroon wants Valiant to get evidence of the affair to show to Roger. His reasoning being that if he can’t work when he simply suspects his wife of being unfaithful, he’ll be right as rain once he has his nose rubbed in actual photographic evidence of the love of his life mixing paint with another man. Yeah, fine, Maroon’s plan makes no sense but then it’s not supposed to as we’ll soon see, and Eddie is too blinded by the chance to make some money (or “pre-booze” as Eddie likes to call it) that he doesn’t notice that Maroon’s story stinks.
Maroon agrees to pay Eddie $100 dollars (which, in 1940s money is a whole lotta scratch. How’s a guy get that kinda scratch? It’s a lotta scratch, I tells ya). and Eddie almost has a heart attack when Dumbo suddenly appears outside Maroon’s office window (and looking much better animated than he ever did in Dumbo) to the point where he actually dives under a table. And as Eddie leaves the studio, one thing becomes very clear: Eddie is terrified of toons.
The movie makes plenty of implied comparisons between cartoons in this world and the real-world status of African-Americans of the period. The Ink and Paint Club, for instance, is an obvious reference to The Cotton Club, a legendary and notorious New York jazz club with all black entertainers and waiting staff and all white clientele. But the comparisons only go so far and I think it really undersells the character of Eddie Valiant to think of him as simply an anti-toon bigot. As we’ll see, his attitude is far more complex (and also, far more understandable) than base hatred. Eddie steals a ride on the red car (“best public transportation system in the world”) and arrives at the dive bar where his girlfriend(?) Dolores works.
The relationship between Dolores (Joanna Cassidy) and Eddie is another thing I really like about this movie. It’s not really spelt out or dwelt on for any length of time but the movie is so good at dropping little visual and verbal clues that you come away with a pretty full picture of their history. Cassidy is a good foil for Hoskins, and does a really great job of showing how Dolores is still too much in love with the man Eddie Valiant once was to abandon the drunken wreck he’s become. She’s also great interacting with the animated characters too.
Of course, she has experience working with animals.

Of course, she has experience working with animals.

Eddie tells her that he’s going to be able to pay off the money he owes her with the Maroon job and Angelo, one of the bar flies, starts cracking jokes about Eddie working for various cartoon characters.
And yes ladies, I hear hes single.

And yes ladies, I hear he’s single.

Eddie responds calmly and rationally to the drunken lout by kicking his stool out from under him and force-feeding him an egg (which, in the forties, was the equivalent of saying “we’ll agree to disagree”.) Eddie storms out and Angelo asks who spit in his bean curd and Dolores says “A toon killed his brother. Dropped a piano on his head.”
Sure, laugh. It’s a funny line. But think about it for a minute. What would it actually be like to live in a world where Bugs Bunny and the Road-Runner were real? You might at first think, like Eddie and his brother Teddy once did, that it was a “lot of laughs”. But then one day someone you love is on the receiving end of the kind of violence these creatures dish out on a regular basis. And suddenly it’s not funny anymore. I don’t think Eddie’s “toonism” is motivated by anger over his brother’s killing. I mean sure, that’s there too. But I imagine Eddie drinking himself into a stupor and tensing every time he sees a toon not because he’s angry, but because he’s terrified. He probably lies awake at night wondering to himself; if the toons suddenly decided to kill every last human being on earth for fun…who could stop them? But still, a job’s a job so Eddie heads over to the Ink and Paint club where Jessica Rabbit is performing.
The scene in the Ink and Paint club has enough gags and cameos and references that I could just stay here and not even bother reviewing the rest of the movie but you’re not going to let me do that are ya, so fiiiiiiiine, we’ll just cover the big ones. Eddie meets Marvin Acme who owns Toon Town and makes practical jokes and gag props.
Ooooooooh…now it all makes sense.

Ooooooooh…now it all makes sense.

Acme introduces himself by spraying ink on Eddie’s shirt, but before Eddie can pop him one on the kisser Acme points out that the ink has vanished so no harm done (yeah, but he’s still wet, asshole).
Onstage, Donald and Daffy Duck perform a piano duet which ends with Daffy locking Donald in his piano and then Donald blowing Daffy up with a cannon and both ducks getting yanked offstage. It’s a phenomenal sequence and it’s really awesome to see these two characters acting off each other as they’re a surprisingly good fit (I’ve always felt Donald was one of the few Disney characters with enough of an anarchic edge to hold his own against the ‘Tunes). That’s actually legendary MYTHICAL voice actor Mel Blanc as Daffy and the animation captures him perfectly (although, if he seems weirdly off-model it’s because this is forties “screwball Daffy”, the character underwent a pretty major design overhaul in the early fifties to become the more familiar Daffy we all know and love). This scene is also somewhat notorious because of the urban legend that Donald calls Daffy the N-word at one point. Having watched it again…yeah, if you’re looking for it, it does sound a lot like that’s what he’s saying but the line is actually “doggone stubborn little…”
No friends, while he may have poor diction, Donald Duck is no racist and I defy you to prove me wrong.
Okay, that is taken COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTEXT!

Okay, that is taken COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTEXT!

Also, the piece of music they’re playing is Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2, because of course it is. In fact, I’d be very surprised if having two characters from two different companies playing the piece on piano wasn’t a subtle reference to the “Rabbit Rhapsody/Cat Concerto” controversy. If you haven’t heard of it then I won’t go in to too much detail here because it’s absolutely fascinating and I will probably be doing a full blog post on it at some point. Short version: There are two cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny and Tom the Cat that feature them both playing this piece of music and they are suspiciously similar, to the point where both Warner Bros and MGM each accused the other of blatant plagiarism.
Oh yeah, I was reviewing a movie, wasn’t I?
Eddie also meets Betty Boop who’s waitressing and she explains that things have been slow since the switch to colour. I love this scene for several reasons. Firstly, Eddie treats Betty like an old friend rather than simply just another toon which adds a lot of depth to his character. But mostly it’s because that is actually Mae Questel voicing Betty, who played the character from 1930 to 1939, as well as Olive Oyl and even Popeye during the war because all the male voice artists had been drafted and she was all “what, like it’s hard?”. Take a listen to her here at Behind the Voice Actors, you will not actually believe that a woman was able to do that voice. This was the last time she played the role of Betty. She gives Eddie a “Boop-boop-be-doop” for old time’s sake, saying “I still got it!”
"Yeah. You still got it, Mae."

“Yeah. You still got it, Mae.”

And then we get probably the most famous scene in the whole movie.
Behold, the leg that ushered a generation into puberty.

Behold, the leg that kicked a generation into puberty.

Jessica Rabbit is such a difficult character to unravel. On the surface, she’s pure male fantasy.
Well duh
Like, almost to the point of parody. And yet, straight women seem to love Jessica too. I think it’s because, beyond the pin-up façade, Jessica actually has a lot of depth and complexity (hear me out). Almost to the end of the movie we’re still trying to suss out her motives, trying to guess whether her bad-girl design and shady motivations are a bluff, a double bluff or a triple bluff. Is she bad? Or is she is just drawn that way? And when we finally learn who she really is, a courageous, resourceful woman who genuinely loves her man lagamorph and would walk through hell to protect him, it’s a satisfying resolution.
 
So here’s our introduction, Jessica (voiced here by Spielberg’s then-wife Amy Irving) crooning the slowest, sultriest version of “Why Don’t you do Right?” that has likely ever been recorded, and Eddie’s reaction says it all.
"This is the face of a man who got an erection so hard and fast that it tore a hole in the fabric of space-time and now the end of his dick is lodged in the heart of a star."

This is the face of a man who got an erection so hard and fast that it tore a hole in the fabric of space-time and now the end of his dick is lodged in the heart of a star.

After the show, Eddie manages to get some pictures of Marvin and Acme playing “patty-cake” (but not “Mother May I?” because she’s not that kind of girl). Eddie and Maroon show Roger the pictures and he goes to pieces. Eddie, who never saw a situation that couldn’t be improved with booze, gives Roger a drink to calm him down which causes him to go straight to Bahia.
This may in fact be the most perfect specimen Ive seen in all my years as a blogsman.

This may in fact be the most perfect specimen I’ve seen in all my years as a blogsman.

Some people just can’t hold their drink. I’m told. I live in Ireland, I’m just going on hearsay.
 
Anyway, Roger starts ranting that he’s going to make sure that he and Jessica stay together for ever and crashes through Maroon’s office window.    
Eddie returns home to his office and mournfully looks over old pictures of himself, Teddy and Dolores in happier times. Zemeckis manages to give us several scenes worth of exposition just by panning over Eddie’s office and showing us little details: Teddy’s desk now covered with dust, newspaper clippings of their glory days (“Goofy Cleared of Spy Charges” is my personal favourite) and an old, faded photograph of the two brothers as kids with their father, a circus clown (you could probably write a thesis on how cartoons replaced the circus in the imagination of the American child but I can’t as it feels like I’m writing a thesis already.)
The next morning Eddie is woken by his old pal from the force, Lieutenant Santino (Richard LeParmentier).
And his fedora is now the ultimate power in the universe.

And his fedora is now the ultimate power in the universe.

Santino tells him that Marvin Acme has been murdered and drags him over to the crime scene. Acme was crushed by a piano, meaning that he was almost certainly killed by a toon or Liberace. With Roger as the prime suspect, jurisdiction for the crime falls to Toon Town’s judge…Doom.
On one level, Doom should be too ridiculous to work and really should derail the whole movie. After all, first rule of a good film noir mystery is that there should be, y’know, a mystery. So first we’re presented with a murder and then this guy called “Doom” shows up dressed all in black, wearing shades and accompanied by one of the most sinister musical themes since Bruce the Shark. All we’re missing is the massive flashing neon sign saying “VILLAIN! VILLAIN! SMILING DAM’NED VILLAIN!”. However, the character does work, and like gangbusters at that, for a few reasons. Firstly, of course, is Christopher Lloyd, giving one of the all time great portrayals of big screen villainy. Lloyd channels all 1.21 giggawatts of his incredible charismatic energy into investing Doom with a sinister, crackling malevolence that bubbles right under the surface until finally bursting forth in all its horror. But as well as the performance, Doom works because this is a damn clever script. By making Doom such an obvious villain, we’re blindsided by the reveal of his true nature.
MOST REDUNDANT SPOILDER WARNING IN THE HISTORY OF THE INTERNET
He’s a toon.
END OF ENTIRELY SUPERFLOUS SPOILER WARNING.
And when you think about it, of course he is. A human being who was planning to commit genocide for a quick buck wouldn’t dress in black and call himself “Mr Evil”, but a cartoon absolutely would. Because cartoons are entertainers, they are always playing a part whether they mean to or not, and they are not exactly subtle performers.  Another example of how smart this script is. Within a few seconds of Doom appearing I was thinking of a joke about how silly it was that someone so obviously evil (he has a skull-topped cane for crying out loud!) could ever get elected. The frickin’ next line of dialogue:
EDDIE: How did that gargoyle get to be a judge?
SANTINO: He spread a bunch of simoleans around Toon Town a couple’a years back, bought the election.
"Are...are you reading my mind..?"

“Are…are you reading my mind..?”

"Yes. Seriously, what's with you and the fish?"

“Yes. Seriously, what’s with you and the fish?”

Doom tells Eddie that he’s planning on capturing Roger and summarily executing him for the crime of killing a human, saying an example needs to be made (another thing we learn about toons in this world, practically zero rights). He demonstrates how he’s planning on doing this by killing a innocent little toon shoe that’s been trying to make time with his footwear.

"Hey baby. My room. Half an hour. Bring your sister."

“Hey baby. My room. Half an hour. Bring your sister.”

The scene where Doom dips the shoe is one of the most notorious in the whole movie because, while good cartoon characters certainly do die, it’s never the cute little ones. Bambi’s Mother can be killed. But Thumper? No, that could never happen. And yet, however horrified Eddie is at Doom’s cold blooded murder (and he clearly is), I would imagine that somewhere in the back of his mind there is a tiny flicker of something else: relief. We can actually kill them. Oh thank God. And that’s not the kind of thought that makes you feel good about yourself.
Eddie slumps miserably back to his office where he sees a woman outside with a pram about to give the baby inside a lit cigar. Since this is the forties and children that young really shouldn’t be smoking anything stronger than Camel Non-Filters, Eddie tries to stop her only to see that it’s actually Roger’s co-star Baby Herman (Lou Hirsch).Herman tells Eddie that Marvin Acme had a will leaving Toon Town to the toons, but that the will’s gone missing. Herman says that the will was the reason Acme was murdered and offers to pay Eddie to solve the case. Eddie, in (case you’d forgotten) DON’T WORK FOR TOONS and so instead takes Herman’s pram and re-enacts the Odessa Steps scene from Battleship Potempkin (too highbrow?).
"How droll."

“How droll.”

While looking over the front page of a newspaper, Eddie spots something unusual in the picture of Marvin Acme; The Will!

Realising that he’s just stumbled over a massive clue that could blow this whole case wide open, Eddie says “fuck it” and goes to sleep. Unfortunately, there’s already someone in his bed, which can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.

The latter, in this case.

The latter, in this case.

Roger explains that he didn’t kill Acme, and instead that he went to the Ink and Paint Club to confront Jessica and wrote her a love letter on a blank piece of paper that he found in her dressing room. Then Judge Doom’s goons (a pack of cartoon weasels) showed up so he ran to offices of Valiant and Valiant because they’re famous for helping toons in distress. Roger’s news is obviously out of date, because in the intervening years Valiant and Valiant has become Valiant and Seething Hatred/Barely Functional Alcoholism.  Eddie is about to turn Roger in to the cops when the weasels show up at his door. Knowing that if they catch him Roger is as good as dipped, Eddie grudgingly agrees to hide him while the weasels tear his office apart. After they leave Eddie stashes Roger in the speak-easy at the back of Dolores’ bar and goes back to the office to do some sleuthing. There he finds Jessica (Kathleen Turner) waiting for him.

Bob Hoskins really should have rubbed some garlic on that wolf bite.

Bob Hoskins really should have rubbed some garlic on that wolf bite.

 Jessica tells Eddie that he was set up to take the pictures of her and Marvin Acme, and that she was blackmailed into going along with it by RK Maroon who threatened to blackball Roger. Jessica gives Eddie the famous line “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”

Soooo…how does that work exactly? Do animators actually exist in this world? My personal head canon is that animation doesn’t actually exist in Eddie Valiant’s world and that toon town is an interdimensional portal. Every time a cartoon character is created in our universe that character comes to life in Eddie Valiant’s world. So, say in 1914, Gertie the Dinosaur appears in what will one day become Toon Town and by 2014 Toon Town has expanded into a massive madcap, megalopolis the engulfs half the West Coast.

Ruled by their ruthless tyrant king.

Ruled by their ruthless tyrant king.

Dolores shows up and is none too happy to find Jessica draped all over Eddie. Once she’s calmed down she tells Eddie that it’s not RK Maroon that wants to get his hands on Toon Town, it’s Clover Leaf, the mysterious company that’s been buying up public transport in LA and then shutting it down. This is actually a reference to the General Motors Steetcar Conspiracy, which claims that GM bought up public transportation companies and then scuttled them to ensure that everyone would have to buy a car. Honestly, I don’t know what to think about that. No one seems to know for sure if the theory is complete bunk, or if it absolutely happened or if it happened but not the way everyone says it did and frankly I’m not ready to investigate another conspiracy theory so soon after my last brush with the Secret Lizard Kings so let’s just file it under “maybe”.

Dolores and Eddie arrive back at the bar to find that Roger has interpreted their instructions to stay quiet and hidden rather loosely; putting on a full song and dance show for the patrons set to The Merry Go Round Broke Down. Furious, Eddie drags Roger into the backroom and asks him “What the hell brah?” and Roger explains that the patrons needed to laugh. Eddie says that once Angelo has finished laughing he’ll rat Roger out in a cold minute but Roger says that making people laugh is the only weapon a toon has.

And that is a lie

And that is a lie.

Doom arrives, like the black spectre of death itself and offers a whole lotta scratch (the kinda scratch that makes a fella wonder where you get that kinda scratch) to anyone who can tell him where Roger is. Angelo says that he’s seen a rabbit and then stretches out his arm saying, “Say hello, Harvey!”

"Wait a minute! The movie Harvey came out in 1950! ANACHRONISM!"

“Wait a minute! The movie Harvey came out in 1950! ANACHRONISM!”

"The play the movie was based on came out in 1944."

“The play the movie was based on came out in 1944.”

"Oh...I...I...I..."

“Oh…I…I…I…”

 

"Get this guy outta my face Mouse."

“Get this guy outta my face Mouse.”

"Get outta here while you sstill can, Nit. Guys untouchable."

“Nit, this guy’s on another level. Get outta here while you still can.”

Foiled by Angelo’s passion for contemporary American theatre, Doom tries another tactic, rapping the first five beats of “Shave and a Haircut” until Roger can’t resist exploding through the wall and hollering “TWO BITS!”

Well, who can resist Barber Shop?

Doom is about to shove Roger into the business end of a can of dip, but Eddie intervenes by offering Roger a last drink. He convinces Roger to drink it with a little “Duck Season/Rabbit Season” and Roger once again can’t handle his booze and ends up wrecking half the bar like an Englishman. Eddie and Roger escape and try to steal the weasel’s van but there’s no key. Fortunately they find Benny (Fleischer again) a cartoon cab and manage to drive him to safety.

Eddie and Roger hide out in movie theatre and Eddie finally reveals to Roger the origin story of that stick up his ass. Roger is horrified to hear that a toon killed his brother and says that he doesn’t blame Eddie for hating him. Eddie says that he doesn’t hate him.

Lying cat

Dolores arrives and tells Eddie that she got his message and would have been there sooner but that she had to shake the weasels (not a euphemism). Eddie and Roger get ready to skip town in Eddie’s car but a newsreel suddenly appears onscreen announcing that Maroon Studios has just been purchased by Clover Leaf. Eddie and Roger head over to Maroon studios and Eddie tells Roger to keep an eye out while he shakes down Maroon for information. After Eddie threatens to feed Maroon to an editing machine, the cartoonist confesses that he wanted to sell the studio to Cloverleaf but that they were only interested in the land if Acme was also selling his. Acme refused to sell, so Maroon was planning on using the photos to blackmail him into selling. Maroon says he doesn’t want to see the toons destroyed and that unless Acme’s will turns up by midnight Toon Town will be “Land for the free BANG gurgle gurgle gasp croak.” At least, I think that’s what he said. It was kinda hard to make out, he was getting shot at the time. Eddie rushes to the window and sees Jessica fleeing the scene of the crime.

He runs downstairs to find Roger missing and a car fleeing the scene. He chases after it until he comes to the tunnel leading into Toon Town. Eddie hesitates, but finally musters up the courage to go in after, first discarding his gun and taking a cartoon six-shooter gifted to him by Yosemite Sam (“Thanks for getting me out of the hoose-gow”) that comes complete with six cartoon bullets (one voiced by Jim Cummings and another by Scratchy Era mainstay Pat Buttram).  Eddie empties out his bottle of booze and then throws it up in the air and shoots it (which, while great as symbol of his finally breaking his dependency on alcohol, is not really a good use of scarce ammo) and then enters the very mouth of Bahia itself.

See those rabbits? They know.

See those rabbits?
They know.

 The Toon Town sequence is just a riot of colour and blink-and-you’ll-miss ’em cameos, all scored to the chipper yet faintly menacing tune Smile, Darn ya, Smile. Again, I could spend practically the entire review just pointing out the cameos but I haven’t eaten in three days so let’s just push on. Eddie searches for Jessica, running into character as diverse as Droopy, Lena Hyena, Tweety Pie and even Bugs Bunny and the Black Mouse himself.

"Where did you come from?" "I have always been here. You can see me now as your death approaches."

“Where did you come from?”
“I have always been here. You can see me now as your death approaches.”

 Finally he tracks Jessica to a darkened back alley and she gets the drop on him. Instead of shooting him though, she saves him from being shot by Doom. Jessica explains that Doom killed RK Maroon and that the reason Roger went missing from the studio was because she clobbered him with a frying pan and stuffed him in the boot of her car so that he wouldn’t get hurt. However, when they get to her car Roger has escaped from the boot and taken Eddie’s car, leaving them stranded. Eddie flags down Benny the Cab and they race off to find Roger. As they drive Jessica tells Eddie that Marvin Acme had given her the will for safe keeping but that when she opened it it was just a blank piece of paper. Eddie asks Jessica what she sees in Roger and she simply says “He makes me laugh.”

"Ah. That old trap."

“Ah. That old trap.”

 Outside Toon Town, Doom dumps a barrel of dip on the road which causes Benny to go swerving into a lampost.  Jessica and Eddie are taken prisoner and brought to the Acme Factory where the weasels search them for the will but can’t find it. Doom tells Eddie that without the will Cloverleaf legally owns Toon Town and that Cloverleaf only has one shareholder and his name ends in “Doom.”

No, he was bought out.

No, he was bought out.

 Doom then unveils his master plan and then unveils a massive machine and basically this guy is on an unveiling roll.

"Behold! My Wonkamobile...OF DOOM!"

“Behold! My Wonkamobile…OF DOOM!”

Doom explains that he’s planning on slathering Toon Town in more dip that a bowl of doritos and wiping it off the map to make way for a freeway, “eight shimmering lines of concrete from here to Pasadena. Traffic jams will be a thing of the past.”

*Pause for all of my Californian readers to emit a hollow, hacking laugh of bitter mockery.*

Roger briefly makes an appearence in the middle of Doom’s speech and promptly gets a ton bricks dropped on him…

Alice Facepalm

…and he and Jessica are tied up while Doom turns the machine on.

It looks like that’s all folks, so Jessica tells Roger that she loves him “more than any woman’s ever loved a rabbit.”

True at the time.

True at the time.

Do0m trips on some plastic eyeballs, which causes the weasels to break their shit laughing. Doom yells at them to stop laughing (because weasels famously die if they laugh too much. Commonly known fact.)

"Why so serious?"

“Why so serious?”

"Because otherwise Ill die, asshole."

“Because otherwise I’ll die. Asshole.”

Eddie remembers that greedy property developers have one weakness: Dance! He puts on a big song and dance number complete with backflips from his circus days which drives the weasels into hysterics of laughter and OH NO I FORGOT LAUGHTER IS CONTAGIOUS!

HAAAAHAHAHAHA...oh God help me HAAAAAHAHAHAA!

HAAAAHAHAHAHA…oh God help me HAAAAAHAHAHAA!

The weasels snuff it and Eddie races to turn off the dip machine but Doom re-appears. Eddie and Doom battle with the various toon props lying around the factory which ends with Doom getting stuck to the wheel of an oncoming steamroller with superglue and then ohhhhhhhhhh God.

Ahem.

So you remember how I’ve mentioned that I was a nervous kid as a child? Yeah, there’s a reason my parents didn’t let me watch this movie until I was on the north side of puberty.

So first of all, you straight up see a screaming man flattened by a steam roller. They don’t cut away or anything, you see the whole thing. Then, the compressed corpse of that man springs up and starts flopping around like a human slinky. And then his eyes pop out and he starts SCREAMING! LIKE!!! THIIIIIIIIISSS!!!

Bahia

 Eddie manages to blow a valve on the dip machine, soaking Doom in the stuff which causes him to melt in the most horrific and terrifying way possible ‘cos a man’s gotta die the way he lived. The now empty dip machine crashes through the wall of Toon Town on to a train track…
timer-e1366155881240
…and gets smushed by a passing train.
Benny arrives with Liutenant Santino and Eddie fills the cop in, explaining that Doom killed Maroon, Acme and his brother. The toons come through the hole in the wall and speculate on who Doom really was.
Wow! All my favourite cartoon characters in one place! Smiling and laughing over a corpse... What a bunch of ghouls.

Wow! All my favourite cartoon characters in one place!
Smiling and laughing over a corpse…
What a bunch of ghouls.

Actually, in the original script it was going to be revealed that Doom was “Man” from Bambi but Disney nixed that idea so it’s never revealed in the movie just who or what Doom actually was.
And then the comic revealed that he was apparently a grinch. Named Baron Von Rotten. *Cough*

And then the comic revealed that he was apparently a grinch. Named Baron Von Rotten.
*Cough*

Eddie cops that Marvin Acme wrote his will in disappearing ink and asks Roger to read Jessica the love letter he wrote her. Roger realises halfway through that there’s a lot more “hereafter’s” and “aforementioned’s” than he remembered writing and discovers that it’s actually Acme’s will which leaves Toon Town to the Toons.

And so our movie ends with a big happy dance party because Jeffrey Katzenberg was involved in this and there are rules.

***

Who Framed Roger Rabbit opened at number one, received near-universal critical acclaim, kick-started the Disney renaissance, re-ignited interest in classic animation, swept the Academy awards, closed the whole in the ozone layer, reunited East and West Germany and cured several forms of cancer. It’s really, really, really good. One of those rare films where all the elements work perfectly. If you’re an animation fan, a movie fan or a mammal with working eyeballs, you owe it to yourself to see this film. 

Scoring
Animation: 20/20
The most breath-taking merging of live action and animation that has ever been achieved on film. Period.
Leads: 19/20
Bob Hoskins was robbed for the Oscar, people. Robbed.
Villain: 20/20
One of the most nightmarishly terrifying yet entertaining big-screen villains ever conceived.
Supporting Characters: 20/20
A supporting cast chock full of the greatest cartoon characters of all time? Why thank you.
Music: 18/20
Alan Silvestri’s “Doom” theme always gives me chills.
FINAL SCORE: 97%
NEXT UPDATE: 18 December 2014
December is Richard Williams month here on Unshaved Mouse (what, you didn’t know? It’s a timeless tradition I just started). Next time we look at one of the most infamous boondoggles in the history of animation. Ladies. Gentlemen. Assorted talking maps. I have just one question for you.
Are you feeling love?

Are you feeling love?

Neil Sharpson aka the Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blooger and comic book writer based in Dublin. The new movie review goes up every second Thursday, and he is also serialising his novel, The Hangman’s Daughter, with a new chapter every Saturday. Today’s review was made possible by the very kind donation of Jen Seggio. Thanks Jen!
what do you call this play
the mouse trap

51 comments

      1. Between exams and sports I finally got around to watching it. I really loved the scenes where the cartoon gun was introduced, Eddy dumped out the alcohol , and of course Eddy’s dance and song.

  1. Welcome back, Mouse!

    I’m not among the crowd that loves this movie. For whatever reason, I simply like it. I agree that Roger can get annoying, and that’s what kind of turned me off the first time I saw it. I gave the movie another chance and grew to like it more.

  2. Everyone, time to celebrate.
    MOUSE IS BACK!!!!!!
    (Mexican Hat Dance music plays in the background)
    Good to see you back Mouse, cool review of one of the greatest movies of our time. It must have been a pain in the neck to write because there’s so much in this movie to talk about. Just to let you know, we appreciate it.

  3. Nice to see you back, unshavedmouse!

    I saw this movie years ago and remember thinking it overrated. But, I feel I need to see it again now that I’m older and more mature (cough).

    And I think you’re missing a “u” in your secret “yor”.

  4. Welcome back, Mouse! And a great review to boot.

    Quick question that came to mind: which duo of Disney directors do you prefer? Kirk Wise and Gary Trousedale (Beauty and the Beast, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Atlantis) or John Musker and Ron Clements (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet, and Princess and the Frog)? I didn’t include The Great Mouse Detective because it had other directors as well. I’m only listing movies directed SOLELY by the respective director duos. So which team of directors do you prefer and why?

    If anyone else wants to answer this question as well, feel free.

  5. Yep, this is one of my favorite movies. On top of the brilliant script, stunning animation and fantastic cast, I really like the concept of cartoon characters being real people that we can interact with.

    Next time: Oh, this oughta be fun/depressing

  6. “Lloyd channels all 1.21 giggawatts of his incredible charismatic energy into investing Doom with a sinister, crackling malevolence that bubbles right under the surface until finally bursting forth in all its horror.” THAT GOT ME LAUGHING FOR HOURS! XD
    Well, what else can I say, Mouse? I love every bit of this movie and every bit of your review! Great that you are back. :’)

  7. So, I’m from Los Angeles, and yeah, there’s a lot of things in this movie that crack me the hell up because of how ironic they are now. Best public transportation system in the world! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It took my parents an hour and 45 minutes to drive to LAX last week. That drive normally takes half an hour with light traffic. Absolutely ridiculous.

    I think the greatest compliment I can give Bob Hoskins is that he almost made the Super Mario Bros Movie worth watching. He was a truly great actor and he is sorely missed.

  8. All right, I’m won over. That’s one more movie on the “list of movies to watch”.

    Also, no traffic jams in Los Angeles…ha…ha ha…

    (I know you made that joke already, Mouse, but seriously. One hour there, ninety minutes back. For what /should/ be thirty minutes. And this is just on the outskirts of Los Angeles. I am not the first nor the only one to suspect that the LA freeway system is actually a summoning grid of steel and concrete, made to harvest our despair to call forth Nyarlathotep.)

    On a slightly different track, Mouse, the copy-editing on this review could do with some work. I see a couple of slight typos, grammatical hiccups, missing spaces between sentences: just enough to be noticeable. The only other review here I could remember with that problem was Wreck-It Ralph.

  9. Hey, great to see you back on here. Hope the play is going very well.

    Funny enough, I first watched this movie on TV when I was 13, and caught the very last part of the film, so the spoiler of Doom being a toon passed through me. Took me a second viewing to see the film all completed. He didn’t scare me as a toon, but then again I never got the movie as a child except for owning a vhs copy of all three roger rabbit shorts. Weird, hu?

    Quick questions: first off, what are your thoughts on the infamous vagina shot in the original cut of the movie? And secondly, it sounds like you’re going to be watching the Mirimax version of Thief. But will you also be looking at the Recobbled cut of the film on youtube for comparissons? If so, I recommend the most recent: the Mark 4 version, since it’s, so far, the most complete of the film. Just wondering, that’s all. Anyways, happy to see you on once again.

    1. I’ll be making mention of it but reviewing two movies side by side would just take two much time (though I’ll probably watch Mark 4 for reference). Couldn’t really think of anything funny/interesting to say about Vaginagate (plus it’s not in the DVD) so I just left it out.

  10. Huh, didn’t know the “man” thing…good that they didn’t go there.

    Did you ever notice that the passing train in the end show a bunch of shadow figure in very disturbing poses?

    Either way, I love the movie for the animation, but especially for Jessica Rabbit, I like the character so much, she was one of the first who got a “Honoring the Heroine” article from me.

  11. I finally got round to watching it only about a month ago so I’m glad I did before this review. One of your best and funniest yet

  12. I haven’t seen this one in a while, but right now all I remember about this movie is… didn’t Chuck Jones once call it an affront to animation itself?

  13. So, Mouse, if you are unaware, here in the States tonight, NBC is airing “Peter Pan Live,” a live performance of the Peter Pan musical. I am currently watching it. It is pretty awful. However, it has CHRISTOPHER GODDAM WALKEN as Captain Hook. THAT is wonderful.

    Just thought you might like to know

    1. I don’t know. I thought it was decent. I liked Wendy. And yes, of course, Walken (though the other pirates were good too).

  14. I remember watching this as a kid. We even had one of those kiddie books accompanying it with the cassette tape that had Roger Rabbit narrating and chiming to turn the page. Truth be told, though, while my brother and I enjoyed it as children, this movie really wasn’t made for anyone under the age of 12. It’s astonishing how many adult jokes and innuendos they have hidden in here; enough to give movies like “Shrek” a run for their money.

    It is fascinating seeing a world where cartoon characters are real, and you’re right, it was downright brilliant how the villain was portrayed, because at first you just think he’s a HUMAN villain, but he’s actually a cartoony misanthrope (towards his fellow toons) who’s committing genocide. Normally I like Christopher Lloyd, though some of his characters are downright nasty, and this was one of them.

    I have to tell ya, that scene where he kills the poor little shoe with the dip really tore me up as a kid. To hear its piteous whines and wails as it dies is awful to listen to.

    I do like Jessica Rabbit, but like many girls, it’s for her personality, not her looks. I liked that she actually cared about Roger and wanted to do the right thing. I’ve always wondered how she kept those dresses up, hehe. (Glue? Tape?) Plus it was funny hearing both the human and toon men go nuts over her. Azalea’s Dolls has a dress-up game of her on their site (sorry Mouse, it’s kid-friendly). It took me many years to figure out she was (and still is) a sex icon. There’s even some crazy (and very ugly) British Woman who took on the look and personality of Jessica Rabbit, though she kind fails spectacularly.

    That was actually kinda silly when Roger sees the pictures of his wife playing patty-cake with that studio guy. All they’re doing is playing patty-cake! They don’t even have their clothes off! And yet Roger acts like he’s seen them naked in bed together and/or kissing. Dumb.

    With that beginning cartoon, it’s like, you’re watching the cartoon, and then it’s abruptly over and you’re mentally asking, “Where’s the rest? Why did it stop?” I actually read over on TV Tropes that “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” was meant to start a franchise, but I guess it didn’t sit well with the audience in terms of a “family” franchise (again, it’s not really all that kid-friendly). Too bad. It would have been fascinating to see where it would have gone.

    Roger Rabbit’s more goofy than annoying to me. And you know, I thought for a few years that ALL toons couldn’t handle alcohol, but perhaps it’s just Roger. I once watched a tv special in the 90s that was hosted by some people who had the voice actor for Roger with them, and he, of course, had a ball. (He sounds a lot like Billy Crystal, but isn’t him).

    1. It actually did start a franchise (sort of). There were three shorts made and shown before certain movies (they’re all on the DVD). But there just wasn’t a way to make shorts profitable anymore.

  15. Oh come on, animation may have had problems in the United States during the 80s, but in Japan, it was thriving. It was the time of Studio Ghibli’s founding, anime like Fist of the North Star, Captain Tsubasa, Dragon Ball and Saint Seiya, the time when OVAs started appearing, when Akira was made, as well as Gundam, or the anime that was adapted into Voltron. It was one of the most creative decades for Japanese animation.

  16. One of the things I like the best about your reviews is that they make me go and seek out these movies. This movie has been on my list for years, but when I saw your review posted, I simply had to go and finally see it because I wanted to appreciate all the jokes. So thank you for that. Great review as always and it’s good to have you back.

      1. The movie? Oh, absolutely. It’s a great story and the animation techniques pulled off are simply phenomenal. The first few times a live-action actor picked up an animation or vice versa, my jaw literally dropped. Nowadays CGI is so common and so well blended in that you kind of forget how hard it must be both for the animators and for the actors to meet in the middle without ever, you know, physically meeting.

        Though I must admit that this was one of those movies that are so universally known that you kind of know how the movie will go without ever having seen it. You get spoiled by simply living in the Western culture. So I already knew Doom was a Toon, which took away a little, but it’s still a minor complaint.

      2. Something to look out for the next time you see it. When Eddie holds the toon gun when he’s talking to Jessica in toon town, it’s not actually animated. It’s just a really cartoony looking big plastic gun.

  17. I actually did notice that the first time through. Another thing was when Eddie gets thrown out of the club by the gorilla bouncer, he’s obviously hanging from wires, but that’s all part of the charm nowadays, as far as I’m concerned.

  18. “The scene where Doom dips the shoe is one of the most notorious in the whole movie because, while good cartoon characters certainly do die, it’s never the cute little ones.”

    This scene is actually why I can’t watch the movie. I’m not sure why but it’s way too visceral and legitimately upsets me.

  19. I actually taught a class on this film in college! But I approached it with a different set of analysis criteria, as the course was on film noir.

    One of my fellow students and I – having burned through every other film course offered by our university – were tasked by our professor with presenting and leading discussion on two films. The films we chose needed to typify neo-noir and modern noir. We decided to split the workload in half; she took modern noir and showed the class Se7en, and neo-noir became my focus. I’m not sure if you know this, but the world of neo-noir is filled mostly with awful films. Eventually, I settled on Klute (1971). I must confess: Having seen that movie three times in preparing for the class, I now know what experiencing a truly terrible film feels like. But, for the sake of the course, Klute perfectly exhibited every aspect of neo-noir, so, thankfully, the class discussion pretty much wrote itself.

    But then, inspiration struck! Why not set up a special meeting time and show a film that served as the transition point between neo- and modern noir (and also allow me to study an interesting and enjoyable film instead of muted, LSD-fueled drivel)? The film that sat squarely on that mid-point…? You guessed it! It was Who Framed Roger Rabbit? And what a great analysis that was! The other student and I enjoyed the heck out of our time spent studying and teaching on this film, primarily because it’s not only an amazing neo/modern noir, but also an amazing animated film. Literally, the best of both worlds.

    Great review, as always, Mouse. Keep up the great work!

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