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A Second Look: Who Framed Roger Rabbit
In 1988, Robert Zemeckis released Who Framed Roger Rabbit, based off the 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf. Starring Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, Joanna Cassidy, Kathleen Turner, Alan Tilvern, Lou Hirsch and David Lander, the film grossed $329.8 million at the box office. Nominated for multiple awards, such as the Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Sound, the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, the Saturn Awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Writing and Best Music, and the Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Instrumental Background Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television, the film won numerous other awards including the Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing, Best Effects, Visual Effects and a Special Achievement Award for animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters, the Saturn Awards for Best Fantasy Film, Best Director, and Best Special Effects, the Annie Award for Best Individual Achievement: Technical Achievement, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, the Jupiter Award for Best International Film and the Kids' Choice Awards, USA Blimp Award for Favorite Movie.
In 1947 Los Angeles, during the Golden Age of Animation, cartoon characters are an ethnic minority living alongside human beings. Toon movie star, Roger Rabbit, is on the run from the police after having been accused of murder and his only hope is Eddie Valiant, an alcoholic human private investigator who used to specialize in these types of cases. However, Eddie has refused to work for Toons ever since one killed his brother.
A spectacular film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was the first time juxtaposing animation side by side with live action characters and sets had been done on such a large scale. It works really well as the animated characters interact with the live action environment perfectly in their manipulation of objects and dealings with the actors. There’s points where Roger picks up a glass or Baby Herman smokes a cigar and the willing suspension of disbelief remains unbroken and the audience stays within the film.
The film is both a send-up and parody of film noir with all the trappings present. There's the grizzled and cynical detective along with his witless and obvious client. With them is a storng leady lady, the femme fatale and the over the top villian with all of them revolving around a plot full of betrayal, conspiracies, sex and murder. The homage is done well as is the parody with everything beautifully exaggerated. The live action characters act and play the part really well alongside cartoon characters who don’t know the meaning of subtle.
The film has mostly flat characters, which is perfectly acceptable as most of them are cartoon characters. However, Eddie’s characterization and development are very interesting and very well done. Really able to only trust himself and his girlfriend, Dolores, he starts off the film a cynical alcoholic who can’t let go of the past, refusing to do anything for cartoon characters because his brother was killed by one. In fact, it could be argued that he was turned into a racist against cartoon characters because of what happened as he shut himself off from any interactions with them until the events of the film, blaming and hating every cartoon character for the actions of one. His turnaround is also done really well where he’s realizing that Baby Herman and Roger were telling the truth, which eventually leads him to face the demons of his past by going to Toontown. In turn, that leads him to trust Jessica and other characters in time for his confrontation with Judge Doom.
Doom is a perfect villain for the film, especially in how Lloyd acts him combined with how he's presented. He’s an incredibly dark villain responsible for the murder that drives the plot and is willing to destroy an entire race simply for greed and cruelty. All his appearances before this revelation foreshadow it magnificently, as some unseen wind source keeps blowing his way, making his clothes flap where no one else’s do and as for the way he’s acted, Lloyd makes it so that Doom doesn’t quite come off as natural, with stiff movements, hammy acting and the fact that he never blinks. It’s glaringly obvious that he’s evil and the film’s antagonist and everybody else is well aware of that too but he doesn’t care. the character is so evil that he has no redeeming qualities. Coupled with how his only motivation is because he’s greedy and cruel, it’s clear that he’s an unrealistic villain. However, this is good characterization for this film because he’s not just a villain, he's a cartoon villain.
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