Movie Review: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Director: Robert Zemekis

Writers: Gary K. Wolf (novel), Jeffrey Price (screenplay), Peter S. Seaman (screenplay)

Cast: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer

Producers: Don Hahn, Frank Marshall, Robert Watts, Alan Dewhurst, Steve Starkey

Executive Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Speilberg

Confession: I never watched this movie as a child. It seemed scary and more looney tooney than Disney, so I never got up the nerve to try it out. Now, after watching it three times in a row as an adult…I don’t really think that I missed that much. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few really amazing things about this movie that I will definitely go into, but I have to say that there was a lot that I disagreed with about the movie…which I will also mention.

Pros:

  1. The overall animation is pretty remarkable. I can definitely give a lot of kudos to the artists who painstakingly painted the animations onto each film cell. I can’t believe the dedication. It definitely looks and feels more realistic than previous live action/animation films. The transition from the animated short in the beginning to the live action set is probably my favorite thing about the whole movie.
  2. The storyline is pretty interesting and provides a great explanation for why the toons and the people interact.
  3. It is really fun to see the interaction between the toons from different companies. The significance of the  Mickey and Bugs Bunny scene is definitely not lost on me.
  4. In one of the scenes, they reference a great movie with Jimmy Stewart called Harvey, which I thought was pretty fab.
  5. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie is the conspiracy theory brought up about the Cloverleaf Industries and the death of public transportation especially of the trolley cars in LA.

Conspiracy Theory (Also please take this with a grain of salt, as I am not a specialist on this subject, any of your thoughts and contributions are greatly appreciated):

Judge Doom’s desire to shut down the trolley business and build freeways was a real thing. GM along with many other oil and tire companies started side businesses that would buy up streetcar companies and then immediately shut them down in order to build up highways and promote busses for public transit rather than streetcars and other light rail systems.

800px-Red_Car_Trolley_-_Buena_Vista_Street_-_California_Adventure

Picture from themeparkgc by HarshLight

One thing that seems really interesting is that Walt Disney and the Disney company as a whole has a real love for all rails. He started work in Disneyland partly due to his love of trains. The streetcar in Buena Vista is pretty much an exact replica of the trolley in 1940s California. The nostalgia for a “simpler time” of street cars and public transit is curious to me. Somehow the bus system is not as romantic of a notion. I don’t really know where I am going with this thought, but I do think it is interesting to look at why Disney, and people in general seem to feel nostalgia for trains and other rails….definitely something to keep looking at.

The Cons:

While there were some things that were definitely interesting about the movie, I don’t really know if I will watch it again.

  1. Misogyny runs rampant in this film. I know that it is set in 1947, but please. The jokes do not need to be at a woman’s expense. There are at least six times where a woman is demeaned for the sake of a joke. One of the most disgusting is when Baby Herman slaps a woman’s ass and then tells her that she is “dumb as a rattle,” when she is the one taking care of him. I could go on…but this reason, to me, seems pretty obvious.
  2. The design of Jessica Rabbit is something that also lends itself to criticism. I am still mixed about the design, because I don’t really want to argue that a woman can’t look sexy, but the stereotype that they tie to her is someone who is slutty. She even remarks, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” This is an interesting nod to the way that women have been portrayed in the eyes of men, but I still do not think that that comment alone overrides all of the stupid ways that men react to Jessica in the movie.
  3. There isn’t really enough brought up about how problematic the Ink and Paint club is. It was modeled after the Cotton Club, where black performers could perform but were not allowed to be patrons of the establishment. I feel like it is really just putting it in there without enough explanation about why it is wrong to have the toons perform without getting the same rights.
  4. It is more Looney Tunes than Disney. There is a reason why we love Disney cartoons, and I just feel like this movie highlight all things crude. I appreciate fart jokes  probably more than most people, but I just got bored with all of the slap stick.
  5. Judge Doom is ridiculously scary. The last scene where he turns into a toon is just plain terrifying. Too scary for me as an adult, and would have creeped me out for years as a child!

Overall I would give it two out of five. I am glad that I have finally seen it, but I really don’t want to watch it again. I apologize to anyone who loves this movie, but without the nostalgia of loving it as a child, it really doesn’t stand the test of time to me.

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