Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Astonishing. I mean, on some level I suppose I always thought it was; I do recall seeing it when it came out in Australia (one of my comparatively rare cinema trips at that time), and I loved it then, but I probably only dimly realised just what an achievement it actually was. I probably mainly thought it was funny above all other considerations. And it IS funny, screamingly so. But I look at it now with rather more years of film watching under my felt and with a lot better appreciation of how films are made, and my mind positively boggles; the technical advances required to pull this off without a single instance of computer assistance must have been almost unimaginable in the mid-80s, cos even now the effect is jaw-dropping. And now I realise just how outrageous the film’s basic conceit is, “toons”, cartoon characters and objects, having the same reality as “real” people and things… it’s actually a kind of extraordinary idea, and where the film is perhaps most amazing is the way in which it presents humans and toons interacting, and how well it shows the underlying logic of the behaviour involved; the fact that all the animated business is hand-drawn rather than CGI only enhances the sometimes uncanny effect of the “real” and the “unreal” coming together. I know the film is actually adapted from a novel, but I’ll be damned if I can imagine this working on the printed page; you’d need to put it on film to really be effective. (A cartoon cab driving a real car? Wouldn’t be half as funny reading it as it is seeing it.) And somehow it makes perfect sense to set all this in the context of what is basically a film noir plot, too, because what sort of fictional setting could be less appropriate for a story about cartoon characters? A rabbit accused of murder? Goddamn. So yeah, when I’d only just turned fourteen I would’ve thought this was kind of amazing; nearly 24 years later, I’ve got a much better understanding of just why it is, and it seems even more amazing as a result.

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One thought on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

  1. Joel Bocko November 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    One thing that’s really notable to me now is how original the damn thing is. Yes, I know it’s based on a book but as you say translating it to cinema takes the material to a whole new level (plus I’m pretty sure the book didn’t bare an overwhelming resemblance to the finished feature; don’t quote me on that). The 80s blockbusters – a lot of them anyway – got knocked at the time (often by the same critics who, perhaps feeling the cold sweat of unemployment breathing down their neck, bend over backwards to not seem too elitist in criticizing the more derivative blockbusters of today). But they are strikingly original in conception and have a breezy charm to the execution (of course this isn’t true of all of them; but I’m thinking Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, this for example – amazing how many of them were comedies too; even Gremlins was basically a dark comedy).

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