On "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988)
It's Another Robert Zemeckis Jewel
Image by L.E. Wilson from RedBubble
Sometimes movies can be an experience—a new, eye-opening event that is thrilling and amazing. Back to the Future (1985) is an example of such a movie, as is Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), and not surprisingly, these two fantastic films were directed by the same person: by the great, the masterful, the one and only Robert Zemeckis.
Not enough praise can be bestowed on this remarkable filmmaker and the jaw-dropping movies he’s made over the years. But no movie is as unique and special as Who Framed Roger Rabbit. This is a movie that seamlessly combines 2D animation with live action in a story with adult themes that includes murder and sexual innuendo, provided by a very voluptuously-drawn Jessica Rabbit.
It’s crossover squared, as the animation includes all the recognizable cartoons from various studios such as Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Dumbo, and Snow White; Looney Tunes characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird; and even black-and-white toons from Fleischer Studios such as Betty Boop. What a world! What a fun idea, and what a great show of goodwill from competing studios to allow their creations to co-exist in the same universe! The combination of all these cartoons together adds so much to the realism of the movie, and goes a long way toward making the society of Roger Rabbit believable. Why aren’t more movies made this way?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a must-see film just for the sheer splendor of seeing cartoon characters interacting in our human world. Is this not the dream of childhood? There is something quite enchanting about that. It’s real-life magic, and the delight and wonder that it brings must be experienced by everyone. But the movie also has a great suspenseful story that keeps getting more and more surprising. Countless times we don’t know how the heroes are going to get out of danger, how they are going to solve the mystery, or who the bad guys really are. It’s an intricate, complex story that contains all the best aspects of a suspenseful murder mystery.
But what is it all about? What is the message of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Why it’s none other than the reveal from the influential Sullivan’s Travels (1941), the grandfather of them all, and probably the first film to verbalize an earnest defense of comedy films:
John Sullivan: I want to make a comedy. […] I’ll tell you something else. There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that’s all some people have? It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan.
Roger Rabbit: That’s right. A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it’s the only weapon we have.
What more do you want from life than to experience laughter on a regular basis? What more do you really need? What (besides food, sleep, shelter, and exercise) is more important to your mental health and well-being? Nothing I tell ya! Nothing.
So please watch comedies, and especially all three of these films. They are what filmmaking strives to be. If you don’t at the very least find them to be entertaining, then may the universe have mercy on your soul and treat you kinder very soon. But if you find them as profound as I do, then welcome to movie enlightenment.
Let’s find some more of this together!
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Great post! I've never seen 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' but I remember thinking 'wow!' when it came out for its groundbreaking approach blending cartoon with real-life action (and did it rather better than Mary Poppins, right...?!).
I appreciated 'Back to the Future' for its SFX, but it's not those which keep me coming back to it again and again. I still enjoy watching it nearly forty years on, and it has me in bits every time, because I still manage to convince myself that my desired resolution is NOT going to happen until it does.....!
Roger Rabbit is a fun extension of the film noir genre, too