Friday, July 9, 2010

The 100 Best Movies: #84

84. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

It's the Disney movie that technically isn't a Disney movie. In the 1980's, the Walt Disney Company seemed to be going down without stopping. After a crew of animators left in the late 1970's (including Don Bluth), the Disney films began to lose their edge and even worse: began to lose money (see The Black Cauldron). To make some kind of profit in the decade, they started subsidiary companies like Buena Vista Television (an offshoot from their Buena Vista Studios) which produced shows like the NBC hit The Golden Girls and Touchstone Pictures which was to produce family friendly (yet with a more adult tone) films. One of those new films to be produced by Touchstone (with the help of Steven Spielberg) was this one based (quite loosely) on the satiric book Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, which spoofed detective stories and cartoon characters.

The film is a delightful comedic mixture of animation and live action and director Robert Zemeckis gives this blend a great nostalgic feel to it. Not only does it mix animation and live action, but it mixes genres like film noir, comedy, adventure and mystery. It tells the story of Hollywood Private Investigator Eddie Valliant (played to perfection by Bob Hoskins) and how (in a Hollywood where cartoons walk amongst humans) the studio's biggest star, Roger Rabbit, is having marital troubles. When the prominent Marvin Acme (the delightful Stubby Kaye) is killed, presumably by a "Toon," Roger Rabbit becomes the main suspect because of Acme's relationship with Roger's wife, Jessica (quite possibly the sexiest character ever drawn). The mixture works so well that the film is enjoyable for people of all ages. The cartoons provide the necessary comedic relief (for both adults and kids) and the story is a great throwback to Sam Spade-style classics. The movie (which was a huge departure from the novel) was a massive box-office success and, in a way, helped to save the Disney Company from failure (the advances in VHS sales and the Animated Musical also helped but that's another blog altogether).

Next Post: #83

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