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Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) - Blu-ray Review

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Blu-ray Review

4 stars

Robert Zemeckis could never be accused of resting on laurels or past successes. Despite Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future being two of the 80s’ most successful offerings, Zemeckis wanted to push the boundaries of filmmaking and homage a couple of his passions—film noir and animation—in the one movie. Doesn’t sound so tough, right? This is Zemeckis; the man who had Forrest Gump shake hands with long dead presidents, who was rejected by every studio in town when he wanted to make Back to the Future. He wouldn’t settle for simply an animated gumshoe adventure, oh no! He wanted to shoot a real world gumshoe adventure inhabited by animated characters…

While there had been efforts to combine live action with animation all the way back to Walt Disney’s ‘Alice shorts’, and subsequent forays like Mary Poppins, the sophistication Zemeckis was proposing gave special effects experts night sweats. All the techniques to do it were already in existence; they had just never been utilized to such an intricate level before. It all came down to elbow grease and a lot of money.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit tells the story of Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), a private detective who is hired by the bigwig of a major cartoon studio to find evidence one of its stars, Roger Rabbit, is being cheated on. Valiant has a prejudice against ‘toons’, and is none too happy to working a case that proves to be much more than a philandering wife. In deep, and pursued by the police, Valiant and Roger are forced to find out what’s really happening and who’s behind it.

"gives the added bonus of being funny, witty, and entertaining, transcending its technological marvels to be just a really great night out at the movies"


This is a love letter to Golden Age Hollywood: classic private detective stuff; a boozer gumshoe, a femme fatale, a secret agenda, all masterfully combined with madcap toons that honour the works of Friz Freleng and the Disney cartoons of the 40s. There’s a solid, familiar story here to engage the adults, and madcap slapstick and appearances by just about every famous toon there ever was for the young ones.

Roger is a loud and energetic subject throughout the movie that I think kids adore and adults tolerate. But since the film is told through the eyes of Valiant, his frustrations with Roger’s excesses are our own and accepted. Roger is no Jar Jar, let’s put it that way. The villain, Judge Doom—played masterfully by Zemeckis’ stalwart Christopher Lloyd­—is effectively icy and intimidating, and, in an unnerving scene involving a toon, firmly establishes his threat to Roger. But what makes this film work more than anything else is Bob Hoskins’ Eddie Valiant. His complete immersion into what his doing never falters once; you complete accept he is on the run with a toon rabbit, and all his interactions with animated characters ring true. Much like Mark Hamill’s challenges talking to the puppet Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, Hoskins never gives a hint of the difficulties in acting to nothing. It is an actor’s commitment that brings something like this to life, and Hoskins is flawless as he does it.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Blu-ray Review

As to whether the audiences immersed as much as its lead is open to debate, but since the film earn almost five times its budget, it was certainly a film worth going to see to make up your own mind. There are so many disparate elements combined in this movie it’s a miracle any cohesion was achieved, let alone something a great many people consider successful. This reviewer forgot about separating elements and was lost in the story and the characters: that, to me, is all a film needs to accomplish, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit gives the added bonus of being funny, witty, and entertaining, transcending its technological marvels to be just a really great night out at the movies.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG.
Runtime:
104 mins.
Director
: Robert Zemeckis
Writer
: Jeffrey Price
Cast: Bob Hoskins; Christopher Lloyd; Joanna Cassidy; Charles Fleischer
Genre: Animation | Comedy | Crime | Family
Tagline: It's the story of a man, a woman, and a rabbit in a triangle of trouble.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Here's to the pencil pushers. May they all get lead poisoning."
Distributor:
Touchstone Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 22, 1988
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 12, 2013

Synopsis: A toon-hating detective is a cartoon rabbit's only hope to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

25th Anniversary Edition

Available on Blu-ray - March 12, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps); Russian: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region-free

A twenty fifth anniversary edition sounds promising, but the marketing hacks have struck again. Most of the features here are ported over from the special edition DVD, and very little new content has been added for the Blu-ray. That being said, what you really upgrade for is a HD master of the film, right? How’d they do?

This would have been a tough one to remaster, with so many layers and elements in the picture that require different techniques to punch it up. The MPEG-4 AVC HD transfer is not going to blow away your TV, but it’s a respectful and respectable clean up from the DVD. Grain is present throughout, retaining that old school filmic quality it needs; tones are natural and more vibrant than we’ve ever seen. Blacks are inconsistent and other colours sometimes bleed into them. The temptation might have been to DNR this thing to death for a flawless pristine modern image, but thankfully they’ve resisted that urge. It’s never looked better, and has an old world, imperfect charm.

The DTS-HD 5.1 lossless audio is also a step up from the DVD, but I found, surround sound wise, the rears and effects portion of the track wanting. There is immersion, but the track seemed front heavy to me (perhaps deliberately to approximate the films of yore). The score is what really makes the lossless track kick. Dialogue is crisp and clear. Pretty solid effort from Disney.

As stated, the special features are all but ported over from the special edition DVD. For a 25th Anniversary Edition label, this doesn’t measure up. This is not to say there aren’t some worthwhile features (most of which have been seen before), but when new content is limited to a couple of short cartoons and Trivia Track, it’s a lacklustre effort in this department for Roger’s debut in HD.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Feature-length audio commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis, producer Frank Marshall, associate producer Steve Starkey, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston and co-writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman

Special Features:

For a release of this nature, it’s surprising that the supplementals are so thick and informative. Obviously, everyone is proud of this film and its success. The actors gush over their director and the director gushes over the babes of this picture and its writers. The film actually has a pretty interesting history that is explained by the documentary – which comes highly recommended.

The Special Features are entertaining, light-hearted and simply fun. They are as follows:

  • The Roger Rabbit Shorts (HD, 25 minutes)
  • Who Made Roger Rabbit (SD, 11 minutes)
  • Behind the Ears (SD, 37 minutes)
  • Toontown Confidential (HD)
  • Deleted Scene (SD, 6 minutes)
  • Before and After (SD, 3 minutes)
  • Toon Stand-Ins (SD, 3 minutes)
  • On Set! (SD, 5 minutes)

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