It’s 1947 Hollywood, and Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), a down-on-his-luck detective, is hired to find proof that Marvin Acme, gag factory mogul and owner of Toontown, is playing hanky-panky with femme fatale Jessica Rabbit, wife of Maroon Cartoon superstar, Roger Rabbit. When Acme is found murdered, all fingers point to Roger, who begs the Toon-hating Valiant to find the real evildoer.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an irresistible film! Full of energy, inventiveness and straight-up fun. We’re thrust into a fully realized world, where the simple concept – what if cartoon characters were like regular actors? – is combined with a film noir-ish detective story, and a bit of Hollywood behind the scenes drama. The film doesn’t have to stop along the way to explain the rules to us. We know about cartoons, so the film is free to race ahead, without checking if we’re still along for the ride (which we are).
Even though Roger Rabbit is not a classic cartoon character, he shares the DNA with many of the great ones that came before him, so it’s almost like we know him, before we even get to know him. Of course a goofy character like this can’t carry a film, so that task is left to Bob Hoskins, playing Eddie Valiant, a wonderful, big-boned, balding, hard-drinking, hairy beast of an underdog hero. And then there’s Jessica Rabbit…. Oh dear. Was there ever a more enticing animated babe than her? “I’m not bad…” she says, but I never catch the rest of that sentence, because I know that’s not true.
The combination of animation and live-action is still the (second) biggest draw. I catch myself getting lost in the technical details sometimes, and wonder just how in the hell they pulled that off. The techniques used aren’t new, per se, but they have been updated and refined for this film, and yet they retain a certain roughness, which I find quite endearing. It’s charming the way the cartoon characters don’t always line up with the real world, or the way the hand-drawn images shimmer a bit, as if the drawings are alive. Imagine this film being done today, with pixel perfect digital characters, casting pixel perfect shadows and having pixel perfect reflection. Gah, no thanks.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit reminds us that the 80’s brought us the best of the best, and that we were fools not to appreciate it properly back then.
Audio & Video:
Who Framed Roger Rabbit looks good on Blu-ray. Good, not great. The color balance is good, and the transfer captures both the exaggerated cartoon colors and the 40’s detective story palette, without ruining either.
Most of the images show a thin layer of grain, but some look a bit more rough. Other shots lack definition in the blacks, but the biggest problem is that the film is just not consistently sharp. Just look at Bob Hoskins’ unshaven face. Sometimes every hair is visible, other times his face is a blurry mess (I’m exaggerating). Now, if this was an average film from the ’80s, I wouldn’t complain, but Roger Rabbit was shot almost entirely in the high quality Vista Vision format, so a complete original negative restoration could have brought the film up to an amazing level. This was clearly not done. There is room for improvement. Quite a lot of room, some would say. Still, having said all that, it’s wonderful to finally see the film properly, compared to the “rusty” old DVD.
As for the sound, it’s pretty solid. The soundtrack for this movie is often a big mess, but in this presentation it’s clear and distinct, with a good use of the rear channels. Nothing that will wow anybody, but hard to be really critical about.
This Blu-ray/DVD combo pack more or less recycles the extras from the old 2-disc special edition. So everything, except for the shorts are in standard definition.
The disc includes:
Audio commentary. Featuring the director and assorted crew members.
The Roger Rabbit Shorts. The three original shorts featuring Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman and Jessica Rabbit. These are AMAZING. I wish they had done a hundred of them. The shorts have been digitally remastered and look fantastic!
Behind The Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit (36:37). An extensive, vintage behind the scenes doc, which will probably satisfy most viewers.
Who Made Roger Rabbit (10:58). Almost unwatchable mini-doc hosted by Charles Fleischer (voice of Roger). Might have looked good on paper, but after this you’ll feel like beating Fleischer to death with a stuffed penguin.
Toontown Confidential. A trivia subtitle track.
Deleted scene: The Pig Head sequence (5:30). A closer look at a deleted scene. Very interesting!
Before And After (3:07). Brief split screen sequence, which shows the Toon Town sequence, with and without animation. It’s fun, but way too short (they should have showed the whole film like this), and the image quality is quite bad.
Toon Stand-Ins featurette (3:14). Brief glimpse of the reference-shots that were done with puppets to guide the animation. Opens with the line “there’s probably a complete version of the film looking like this” – great guys, how about including THAT?
On Set! Benny The Cab (4:50). A bit of random behind the scenes shots of the Benny the Cap sequences being shot.
The Blu-ray disc is region free.
NOTE: This package also contains the a DVD version of the film. This is supposed to be the equivalent of Disc 2 from the “old” special edition set. Please be aware that some copies of this set has been shipped with the equivalent of Disc 1 instead, which features the fullscreen version of the film! Contact BVHESupport.com for a replacement, if this is the case.
There is NO excuse not to get this wonderful ’80s movie on Blu-ray. It’s a funny, charming movie, and it’s better than anything you’ll see in the theaters this year.
Extra Features: A-