Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

You know how when you’re childless, any advice you give to those with children is often dismissed because, “yOu’Re NoT a PaReNt!” Yeah. My sister is like that with me about my nieces. As if I haven’t helped raise these girls to appreciate the finer things in life like corndogs with mustard, gummy worms in chocolate pudding, and Asylum movies. Last night, as we were talking on the phone, the oldest one told me her Momma let her and her sister watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and let me tell ya, I was pissed. I immediately had her get her Momma on the phone so I could call her all the names and tell her she was a bad, bad mom. 

You see, not a lot of folks know this about me, but there’s nothing I love more than watching movies made from books I’ve read. Mostly because I enjoy the high I get from tearing a movie apart, piece by piece, and explaining exactly how it could have been done better, in budget, and been a truer adaptation. If you could see my room here in the Bunker, I got two whole walls of books matched to tapes, DVDs, and Blu-Rays, and the requisite theses in spiral bound notebooks to go with. But, back to my story here, as I’m reading my sister the riot act, it occurs to me that I had yet to actually watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit? So, I told my sister that:

A.) From now on, ask me what to get the girls from those little rental boxes outside the drugstore (she lives in the City, if you can believe that) and 2.) I’m not going to apologize for anything I called her until I watch it for myself.

While I’m all about some blood, guts, gore, and boobs (and maybe a bunch of explosions and cool cars); I take my role as an Aunt very seriously. There’s a time and a place to introduce kids to the finer things in cinema. Let them have their Disney Princesses, Transformers, and all…but ease them in to the rest. Sharknado was an easy get. The girls loved that. Labyrinth is something we’ll watch in a couple more years. A few after that, we can get into the slasher classics like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. (Yeah…the original movie was “Chain Saw” not “Chainsaw”. Look it up, ya boobs!) But, I digress. We’re talking about Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

For those of you uneducated about this particular pairing of film and book, here’s the deal. It was based on the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, published in 1981. It was written by Gary K. Wolf and is the first in a duology, but to be honest, Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? was kind of a let down as a follow-up. You can find it at your local library, I’m sure. Anyhow, if you’re a big fan of murder mysteries and/or Film Noir and/or Pulp, this should be right in your wheelhouse. In 1988, the Mouse (you know the one) got a little fruity with this property and released a PG version that, on viewing, made me want to bang my head against the wall.

You know, I think watching this movie was my punishment for what I did to the good Dr. Camp on the supply run we made when I picked this flick up from Mike. Mike is, like…just the best, really. He’s always happy to make a switch-a-roo for me. Doc wanted to pick up some weird cartoon flick he’d heard about but was too chicken-shit to attempt to download to his computer. So, since I needed WFRR (we’re fixin’ to abbreviate now, because my fingers are already tired from typing this all up), I offered to load him up in my 1979 Trans Am after I took the t-tops out and did a quick fiddle under the hood (she’s fickle and requires a lot of cussin’ at before she decides to act right; kinda like me as a kid). After a fairly quick (35 minutes instead of an hour! I’m as good as Han Solo in my TA) ride, we slide in at Mike’s.

I can’t tell you if Mike’s ever given his place a name. The theater marquis just says “Whatever I Want” in crooked, lighted letters. But his rental shop, just to the side, is where all the best things in life live. I bellied up to the counter while Doc calmed himself after our wild ride, perusing the latest acquisitions. I asked Mike (never Mikey, by the way. Never, ever, Mikey) for my disc, then leaned in sort of close (but not too close; I got a reputation to maintain) and asked that he swap out whatever Doc asked for with Legally Blonde 2. Not that Doc wouldn’t watch the Legally Blonde series or anything, but I know he hadn’t seen them so just getting the second one would probably piss him off. Then, I bounced back behind the beads to cruise the more…adult…fare that Mike offered.

So, anyways, what had me so concerned, since I hadn’t seen the movie but had read the book, is that the book is very dark and gritty. The Toons don’t live in “Toon Town,” but are integrated somewhat into the rest of society at large but still somewhat segregated, a la the South before the Civil Rights Movement. The basic plot is Roger hires Valiant to find out why his bosses won’t give him his own cartoon, thinking something nefarious was afoot. Turns out, they just think he sucks. In the meantime, Roger is “censored,” which is the term for a Toon murder. Valiant goes through a lot to figure out the mystery of who censored him; we’ll leave this here for those who want the adventure of trying the book out for themselves.

When we got back to the Bunker, I immediately ran to my room, locked the door (to keep Doc out, pretty sure he was gonna be pissed at me), and popped open that DVD case for the 20-odd year old movie I had never seen. Like I mentioned before, it was originally released in theaters in ’88 by Disney under their Buena Vista Pictures distribution house. For those not in the know, Buena Vista is where all the stuff the Big D wanted to publish that wasn’t 100% G-rated. It was produced by Touchstone/Amblin, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starred Bob Hoskins (as Eddie Valiant), Christopher Lloyd (as Judge Doom), Charles Fleischer (as the voice of Roger), and Kathleen Turner (as the voice of Jessica Rabbit.)

You know what? This flick wasn’t half bad, overall. It’s certainly vaguely children friendly; there’s animated violence and death, but nothing graphic or gruesome. You get a TON of cartoon cameos from both print and animation from across the spectrum. Like, it was weird seeing both Warner Brothers and Disney cartoon characters in the same film. Call me out if I’m wrong, but I think this is still the only film produced by one or the other that has legitimate character crossover and not hints and innuendos. Mel Blanc even provided the voices for the WB characters! Nancy Cartwright (of SImpsons fame), Frank Welker, Mae Questel and many other top voice talent joined in the fray as well. 

The plot is still loosely the same, though Roger is being framed for a murder rather than being axed himself. Eddie, spoiled against Toons because his brother was murdered by one, takes his spin around, being a down-on-his-luck PI and needing the cash and stumbling on to a conspiracy so odd he hardly believes what he’s gotten into. The prejudice against Toons is still present, just not quite to the extent as appears in the books. They have Toon Town, which could roughly be equated to something like a Big City’s Chinatown. This movie will both tug at some heartstrings and make you laugh so hard you might throw up your Junior Mints (this is not a paid endorsement, I just like ’em, a lot.)

I would guess though, by now, you, having had already seen this movie, have made up your mind that I should call my sister right this second and apologize for acting like an ass about what she lets her children watch. That would be a strong no. I want her to continue to question what she shows her spawn, my favorite nieces, and maybe actually ask me for recommendations. I mean, this is the kind of stuff I know. I did mention that the girls might also enjoy Space Jam, so I may send them a copy. (And for the record, I am pretty sure I made Doc cry. He was beating pretty hard on my door during the vaudeville scene. I just turned up the volume until he went away. Bet he won’t let me take him to Mike’s for a while…)

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