A toon and a human must work together to solve a murder.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Bob Hoskins and Charles Fleischer
Review by Jon Kissel
I knew Who Framed Roger Rabbit was going to be a detective noir parody, and it does all those tropes well. Jessica’s slinky and seductive as any mid-century moll must be, and Hoskins is perfectly cast as a barrel-chested tough guy who’s softer than he looks. What I didn’t expect was a child-sized intro into neoliberalism. This film is far smarter than it needed to be. The overarching plot has Doom inventing the suburbs. He buys a successful public transit interest so he can destroy it, and instead force everyone to use his freeway which will need to run directly through Toontown. An egalitarian public good is replaced by a system that enforces consumerism, and a unique place with character is replaced by uniformity and disposability. Swap out the toons for an underrepresented minority and that’s the story of 20th century urban development and white flight. Writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman were inspired by Chinatown, and while Who Framed Roger Rabbit doesn’t have any incest or nose-slicing, the two films strangely have far more in common than I could’ve ever expected.
As the guide through Roger Rabbit’s hybrid world, Hoskins is an incredible sport. He’s Jim Carrey without the rubber face, open to anything that’s asked of him except trimming his back and shoulders. Want him to give a heartfelt monologue about the time his brother was killed by a falling piano? How about a vaudevillian song and dance routine? Demonstrate arousal as a result of a cartoon nightclub act? Hoskins fell on my radar late in his career with his role as Khrushchev in Enemy at the Gates, so his commitment to pure silliness here is a total surprise and a gift, as is the film that contains it. Who Framed Roger Rabbit surprises and impresses and entertains, another in a string of hits for Zemeckis. He’d be one of the great pop directors if not a half dozen or more of his recent efforts that are otherwise worthy of the Dip. B+