Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1988. Touchstone Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Silver Screen Partners III. Screenplay by Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, based on the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf. Cinematography by Dean Cundey. Produced by Frank Marshall, Robert Watts. Music by Alan Silvestri. Production Design by Roger Cain, Elliot Scott. Costume Design by Joanna Johnston. Film Editing by Arthur Schmidt. Academy Awards 1988. Boston Film Critics Awards 1988. Golden Globe Awards 1988.
An absolute classic, this is the best marriage of live action and animation on film and one of the best detective stories in recent years. Films have tried to make the technologies mix since this classic was released but have failed miserably (Space Jam anyone?) A tale that blends the Looney Tunes with Raymond Chandler, it stars a terrific Bob Hoskins as a burned-out Los Angeles private investigator who no longer has the will to live a decent life since his brother died in a toon-related accident. When he is hired by an animation studio boss to spy on Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Kathleen Turner), a sexy femme fatale who might be stepping out on her beloved husband Roger, he initially resists because he no longer “does toons”. When Jessica’s friend Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye) winds up dead, Roger (a cartoon rabbit) is instantly fingered as the murderer and begs Hoskins to help clear his name. Thanks to magical visual effects, cartoon characters (from both the Warners and Disney studios, a first) interact with live humans quite naturally on studio backlots and throughout the city of 1940s L.A., while a trip to Toontown later on finds Hoskins as the minority resident surrounded by nothing but animated characters and sets. The effects (which utilize no computer graphics) are absolutely seamless, but the screenplay backing them up is also fantastic. The detective story is convoluted and complex, perfectly Maltese Falcon-ish in the best of ways, featuring good-time gals, murky bars and has-been acts dishing the dirt to the bitter detective. Great acting by Hoskins and a lovely Joanna Cassidy as his girlfriend, and marvelous voice work by the actors playing the toons (that’s Amy Irving doing Jessica’s singing, by the way).