Cartoon caper creatively combines reality and animation

Private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) gets caught in a bind with cartoon character Roger Rabbit. (Photo courtesy of thisrecording.com)
Private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) gets caught in a bind with cartoon character Roger Rabbit. (Photo courtesy of thisrecording.com)

By Riley Simpson
Sports Editor
Not all good movies are new. Some are old gems from the past. The Prospector would like to introduce old, quality movies to our school and community. You can rent these without spending a fortune at the movie theaters.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
– Three and a half stars out of four

Cartoons are a part of every child’s life, be it on a Saturday morning or a weekday afternoon.  During my youth, I most certainly did not break this natural law. Sometimes I even ditched my friends and family just to catch a Friday night airing of “Dexter’s Laboratory” on Cartoon Network.

But it can’t always be about animation.  Sometimes you need live actors with tangible sets.  Sometimes, you need reality.

Good thing there are movies like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Back in 1988, it was a groundbreaking milestone for animation because it featured two worlds combined into one: a completely animated cartoon and a live-action film. Live-action director Robert Zemekis (the genius behind “Forrest Gump” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy) and animation director Richard Williams (who directed the Academy-Award-winning 1971 version of “A Christmas Carol”) perfectly blend both worlds into a single film, winning “Roger Rabbit” a few Oscars of its own, including Best Animation.

Zemekis and Williams also blend two genres together. “Roger Rabbit” is not only a cartoon, but a sophisticated detective mystery. The script, based off Gary K. Wolf’s book, starts with Eddie Vailiant (Bob Hoskins), a down-on-his-luck, borderline-alcoholic private investigator. He’s hired to do petty snooping like taking pictures of Roger Rabbit’s wife, Jessica, who very well might be the hottest catroon ever, and playing patty-cake with Marvin Acme, owner and mayor of Toontown, a metropolis populated solely by cartoons.

When Acme ends up murdered, all fingers point to Roger. Long story short, Valiant ends up helping innocent Roger clear his name, but not without butting heads with the über-evil Judge Doom and his band of maniacal, laughing weasels. There’s also Acme’s missing will that determines the owner of Toontown in case of Acme’s death.

But the story goes deeper than that. Vailiant’s brother was killed by a Toon (he dropped a piano on his head). So you could understand why Eddie has a hard time dealing with Roger’s craziness while he copes with his loss. Hoskins’ best scene as Eddie is when he describes his brother’s death. He reveals his hidden emotion and opens himself up to Roger.

Up until this point, Toons are impervious to pain, fatigue and death. This changes when Judge Doom invents “the dip.” A mixture of turpentine, benzine and acetone, “the dip” actually kills Toons. As Doom demonstrates in the film, which is a scene that haunted my dreams as a child, he takes a harmless little Toon shoe and slowly lowers it into the vat of death. He intends to do the same to Roger when he’s captured and tried.

Lloyd plays Doom with so much villainy, we forget that he played the lovable Doc Brown from “Back to the Future.” But keep in mind, he prosecutes cartoons. This means that he uses the “shave and a haircut” trick more than detective skills.

Plot turn after plot turn, scandal after scandal, “Roger Rabbit” really stacks up on suspense. But it definitely isn’t lacking comedy—c’mon, it’s half cartoon! A lot of the movie’s laughs come from lampooning Toons and their behavior. When Eddie asks for a Scotch on the rocks (and he means ice), what does his Toon waiter bring him? A Scotch with rocks in it! We also get to see our favorite classic cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Porky the Pig, Goofy and many others. “Roger Rabbit” is also the first time Warner Bros. and Disney characters appear on-screen together.

Can the sinister Judge Doom and his nightmare-inducing “dip” get the best of Roger? Will Eddie find his brother’s killer? Will Acme’s final testament  turn up, saving Toontown and all its inhabitants from eviction? And can Eddie find out who did, in fact, frame Roger Rabbit?  Tune in next Saturday morning for the exciting conclusion to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” – or just rent it from the video store!