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Who Framed Roger Rabbit(1988)
The adventures of an animated rabbit framed for murder, and the detective who helps him clear his name.
For more about Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-ray release, see Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 10, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd (I), Joel Silver (I), Joanna Cassidy, Kathleen Turner, April Winchell
Director: Robert Zemeckis
» See full cast & crew
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-ray Review
"Work's been kinda slow since cartoons went to color. But I've still got it."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 10, 2013
Disney is keenly aware of the appeal and reach of its catalog, down to the best and worst films under the Mouse House banner. Titles like Cinderella and Peter Pan arrive separately and to great fanfare, while other titles shuffle onto shelves en masse, sans the red-carpet treatment afforded their Platinum and Diamond Edition brethren. Last year, it was The Aristocats, The Rescuers, The Rescuers Down Under, Pocahontas, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, The Tigger Movie and Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, all of which released in a single week in August. This year the mois du jour is March, and the releases include Robert Zemeckis's Who Framed Roger Rabbit (the fan-favorite odd man out in the March 12th lineup) and a trio of 2-Movie Collection Blu-rays: The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Mulan and Mulan II, and Brother Bear and Brother Bear 2. (Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Atlantis: Milo's Return were originally set for March 12th as well but were unceremoniously and indefinitely delayed without explanation.) And, once again, the deluge is another hit or miss affair, with a classic live-action/animation hybrid, three solid (or at least decent) animated features and a near-unbearable batch of direct-to-video misfires.
And so at last we come to that classic: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, director Robert Zemeckis and executive producers Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy's nutty, riotous, still-slick sendup of 1940s Hollywood noir. When it was released in 1988, audiences hadn't quite seen anything like it. Innovative and wildly funny, it boasted all-ages appeal, a smart script and a rare, never since replicated gathering of dozens of Golden Age animation icons from rival studios. Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny join each other for a sky-dive; Donald and Daffy Duck face off in a spittle-slinging round of dueling pianos; Goofy, Betty Boop and Yosemite Sam, by no small miracle, share a scene. Even some twenty-five years later, the majority of audiences still haven't quite seen anything like it. (Although, for gamers, Wreck-It Ralph certainly comes close.) Yes, the seamlessness between the animation and live-action footage isn't nearly as seamless as it once seemed, and yes, the word "innovative" doesn't apply so well anymore. But for sheer zaniness, clever nods, big laughs and even bigger heart, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a tried and true blast from Disney's past that just might surprise you.
Hollywood, 1947. King of cartoons R. K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern), of Maroon Cartoon Studios, hires a private detective named Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to tail Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Kathleen Turner), the vivacious wife of bankable animated star Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer), and find out if she's having an affair. Problem is, Eddie hates toons. Has ever since a still-at-large toon killed his brother. He eventually agrees to follow Jessica, though, only to discover she's not only having an affair, but having an affair with Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), owner of the world-famous Acme Corporation. But when Acme turns up dead, Roger becomes the prime suspect. On the run from the notorious Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), a merciless lawman who condemns and executes rogue toons on sight, Roger begs Eddie to help prove his innocence, a request Valiant reluctantly obliges. Now the small-time P.I. has to prevent Doom from uncovering Roger's whereabouts, locate Acme's missing will and solve a murder, a tough case to crack that leads him to the last place he'd ever willingly go: Toontown.
Toontown is an unruly culmination of every comically violent, physics-defying stunt the cartoons of our childhoods delivered with unapologetic abandon. Eddie has good reason to despise it and its residents, and many a viewer will too. Roger and his animated cohorts aren't a lovable bunch -- most of them aren't even that likable -- but that's the point. On-screen, toon madness is hilarious. Off-screen, it's id run rampant, and it takes a lot for Eddie and, by extension, his real-world ilk to warm up to such loony lunacy. Eddie comes around, of course. You may not. If you get the joke, though, and more importantly enjoy the joke, the film's sharp satire, endless one-liners and countless references and cameos will be a real treat. Roger is annoying but that's precisely the point. The toons are insufferable but, again, that's the point. The magic lies in the manner in which the toons are deployed, or rather hurled, into Eddie's path. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is Zemeckis' love of classic cartoons and the full fury of his imagination unleashed, and the lengths to which he and writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman go to create a viable world where toons and humans co-exist is refreshing. For all its unwieldiness, there's an almost airtight logic to the wholly illogical realm of Toontown and nine-tenths of the fun is in watching Zemeckis and his cohorts play in the sprawling sandbox built by Warner Bros., Disney, Universal Pictures, MGM, Paramount Pictures and the likes of Mel Blanc, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Max Fleischer, Walt Disney and the Nine Old Men.
But Zemeckis' passions extend beyond the bounds of Toontown. Hard-boiled film noir, tough-talking detective stories, the history of Tinseltown, the early studio system... nothing, and yet everything, is sacred. Moreover, studying the roots of Zemeckis' career-long experiment in blurring the line between animation and reality adds another layer to the experience -- especially all these years later -- and another reason to fall in love with everything the director managed to pull off at the very beginning. By the same token, if the film falters, it's in its exuberance. Though probably a strange comparison, Roger Rabbit often reminds me of Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in that Zemeckis so commits to his premise that the results become a stylized assault of theme-driven imagery, language and atmosphere. It works as far as I'm concerned, but at the expense of emerging as an across-the-board crowd pleaser. All told, Who Framed Roger Rabbit remains a divisive classic; one that will strike some as brilliant, others as mildly amusing, and still others as tiring or downright unbearable. Thankfully, Hoskins, Lloyd, Turner and, yep, even Fleischer at his most unhinged help make Valiant's Inferno a terrificly performed, sharply penned, laugh-out-loud love letter to Old Hollywood and the Golden Age of Animation.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-ray, Video Quality
It'd be easy to dismiss Roger Rabbit's remaster and subsequent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video transfer with a shrug and a "coulda, shoulda been better." But separating the inherent source issues from the minor but prevailing encoding issues makes all the difference. Softness, color inconsistencies, saturation mishaps, transparent animation elements (watch closely any time Roger or Jessica walk in front of Eddie's windows and note the office blinds are visible through the characters), uneven grain, live-action/animation seams and other undesirables abound whenever animated characters are on screen. And yet almost every instance is a product of the original photography and visual effects, nothing more. Even then, none of it amounts to much of a distraction, unless you're the sort who expects every then-cutting edge 25-year-old film to look as if it rolled off the studio lot yesterday. No, the only real issue that haunts the film sticks to the shadows. Literally. At-times severe crush, macroblocking, noise and blooming render the shadows a full-fledged devil's playground (keep your eyes peeled when Eddie visits the lounge where Betty Boop works). More disconcerting is the fact that the deepest blacks sometimes exhibit a red or purple tint, leaving darker nighttime sequences worse for the wear.
That said, the rest of Disney's presentation is more than commendable. Impressive even. Colors are generally pleasing, primaries have nice punch (particularly in Toontown), skintones are satisfying on the whole, grain is intact, contrast is effective and filmic, and detail is often quite rewarding. Softness aside, a number of closeups and midrange shots steal the show thanks to clean edges, well-resolved fine textures and suitably revealing clarity, and very few scenes suffer from crippling old age. The encode is solid too, without any major artifacting, banding, aliasing or shimmering, other than everything I mentioned earlier. Could the image be improved? Yes, but only through a bit of tinkering and revising. If the animated characters were given a spit shine and a fresh coat of digital paint, and the film were then restored to match, many of the inherent issues would be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. It would be an extensive and expensive undertaking, though, and would require Zemeckis' direct involvement to even be considered a legitimate overhaul. Still, such revisionism isn't always what it's cracked up to be. I'd rather have Roger Rabbit as is -- imperfect but faithful -- than to risk a studio dolling it up for a night out on the 21st century town. Ah well. It's safe to say Who Framed Roger Rabbit has never looked better than it does here. Fans with reasonable expectations will be pleased.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-ray, Audio Quality
While more front-heavy than newborn audiophiles will be accustomed, Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is nevertheless a playful, proficient mix with plenty to offer Roger's biggest fans. Dialogue is clean and clear, without any troubling prioritization mishaps or lost lines. Muffled voices crop up during the most chaotic sequences (Eddie's battle with the weasels for one), but that's part and parcel to the film's late-80s sound design. LFE output is decidedly decent and rear speaker activity is lively enough to earn its keep, even though neither really stands out all that much. It's Alan Silvestri's score that benefits the most, and Silvestri's score that takes full advantage of the soundfield. All in all, Who Framed Roger Rabbit sounds great... if, that is, you approach Disney's lossless track with the same conservative expectations that should be afforded to the disc's video transfer.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If Roger's tongue-twisting antics and Toontown's most grievous offenses don't leave you with the overwhelming desire to strangle Zemeckis or members of the production crew (one by one), Who Framed Roger Rabbit might just be the late-80s live-action/animation classic you've been searching for. Fast, funny and focused, it's a clever homage, a sharp satire and a hilarious ode to the Golden Age of Animation. Just beware how divisive it is, now more than ever. Disney's Blu-ray release won't be appreciated by everyone either. Its video transfer is faithful to a fault, its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track gets the job done and its supplemental package boasts three hours of solid content. If you've never had the pleasure, there's no time like the present to sit down with Roger and solve a good mystery. If you're familiar with the film, there's... no time like the present. Adding Who Framed Roger Rabbit to your collection will be a no-brainer.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Other Editions
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