Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

For once, a Hollywood entertainment that lives up to all of its advance hype. Set in Tinseltown in 1947, this zany detective story follows the efforts of gumshoe Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to clear the name of cartoon character Roger Rabbit when the latter becomes the main suspect in a murder case. The movie, which combines live-action and animation with breathtaking wizardry, was coproduced by the studios of Disney and Spielberg, and although Robert Zemeckis is the director, and the script is by Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman (based on a novel by Gary K. Wolf), another way of interpreting the title is to read it in cartoon terms as an inquiry into how one makes an old-style studio blockbuster without an auteur. In this respect, the “framer” of Roger Rabbit is a platoon of committed and talented individuals united by their love for both film noir and the Hollywood cartoon. As a tribute to the lost splendors (and characters) of both forms, this labor of love is deeply moving: in the world of the film, cartoon characters are treated like a repressed minority threatened by genocide, and gumshoes out of Raymond Chandler (or even Robert Towne) are almost equally archaic. Giving them both one last, delirious fling, the filmmakers create a densely upholstered universe where the denizens of both worlds are allowed to mingle and learn from one another; and a villain from the days of silent movies (Christopher Lloyd’s Judge Doom) is thrown in for good measure. Alternately hilarious, frightening, and awesome, this is the richest new movie around. (Starts Wednesday, Norridge, Old Orchard, Hillside Square)

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