Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 104 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 26.50
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Review Date: March 7, 2013
The time is 1947, immediately after the war when a recession had made life miserable for many in the country. Enter beaten-down detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) who is begged by cartoon studio owner R. K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to get information on star Roger Rabbit’s (Charles Fleischer) wife Jessica's (Kathleen Turner, singing voice of Amy Irving) alleged affair with corporate mogul Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye). Valiant’s surveillance pictures of the two in a compromising position (playing patty-cake) drives Roger to distraction, and when Acme turns up dead, Roger is sought for the murder by Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) and his band of weasels. Despite disliking toons, Valiant makes it his business to get to the truth of the murder.
The most impressive facet of this comic film noir is the sheer mammoth scale of the enterprise. There are very few frames of the film that don’t offer some combination of live action and animation, and when one is aware that it was done without the benefit of CGI and using only optical effects, the achievement is even more astonishing. And what brilliant animation it is guided by the sure hand of the Oscar-winning Richard Williams! Almost every famous cartoon creation from cinema’s golden era pops up somewhere in the film (Popeye and Felix being the notable exceptions), and the inventions of Roger and his charge Baby Herman (voiced by Lou Hirsch with the mouth of a longshoreman in real life) in their own cartoon which begins the movie (as brilliant as any cartoon short done in the frantic style of Tex Avery) goes beyond impressive. And for first timers, when the camera pulls back near the end of the cartoon and live humans step into the cartoon frame beginning the actual story part of the film (followed by all of them stepping out of the cartoon into the real world soundstage), it’s mind-blowing. Continually, the animators thrill and amaze us with their invention and skill: at one point Valiant speeds through Los Angeles traffic in an animated taxicab being pursued by the cartoon weasels in a real cab.
It’s this kind of juxtaposition combined with the taken-for-granted mixture of humans and toons in the same worlds that keep the crazy antics of the movie directed with superb finesse and a razor-sharp sense of timing by Robert Zemeckis continually fresh, funny, and fascinating. OK, the mystery plot by Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman derived from Gary Wolf’s book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? isn’t the most baffling in memory, and the fiendishly frantic climax with our heroes in continual jeopardy runs on a bit longer than it needed to with the close calls, but these are quibbles. The film’s unique spin on a time and place with the novel idea of toon characters existing in real life and the real world is an unparalleled genius set-up, and kudos for all the hands who made this once-in-a-lifetime combination of characters from many studios together in one movie happen.
As for the human actors, Bob Hoskins can’t be given enough credit for his sensational performance as the haunted Eddie Valiant. Having to act opposite nothing for great portions of the movie requires an actor uncommonly skillful at mime and with a powerful imagination. Hoskins meets every challenge and sports a terrific tough guy American accent that seems as natural to him as breathing. Joanna Cassidy is the faithful girl friend beloved of potboiler mystery writers, and film producer Joel Silver is a hoot as the harried director of the cartoon that opens the film. Christopher Lloyd’s Judge Doom is a one-note evil and threatening character, but that note becomes sharper and more exaggerated in Lloyd’s typical style as the movie runs. The animated voice work by especially Charles Fleischer and Kathleen Turner adds expert comic timing and wonderfully ingratiating performances into an already heady mix.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Picture quality is exceptional throughout, and the animated characters blend wonderfully with the live action footage as well or better than it did in theaters. Color is wonderfully rich, and flesh tones on the human characters are very believable. Black levels are excellent with superb shadow detail. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t have the sophisticated split sound effects that one would find in a more recent action or animated film, and the majority of the film’s front and rear soundstage gets used primarily for Alan Silvestri’s bustling and atmospheric music score. Otherwise, the mix seems more attuned to the front channels with effective use of them and dialogue that has been wonderfully recorded and is never overshadowed by the sound effects or music. Dialogue has been placed in the center channel.
The audio commentary gathers together important crew members director Robert Zemeckis, producers Frank Marshall and Steve Starkey, writers Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman, and visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston. Even with so large a group, the comments never get out of control, and lots of vital facts and amusing anecdotes are discussed. A must listen.
The three Roger Rabbit shorts are presented in 1080p and high bitrate Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. “Tummy Trouble” and the best of the three “Roller Coaster Rabbit” run 8 ¼ minutes. “Trail Mix-Up” runs 9 ¼ minutes.
All of the production featurettes are presented in 480i.
“Who Made Roger Rabbit” is an 11-minute featurette with voice actor Charles Fleischer describing how the tricks were accomplished during the production of the movie.
One deleted scene involving Eddie in a pig’s head is explained by director Robert Zemeckis and then shown lasting 5 ½ minutes.
“Before and After” spends 3 ¼ minutes showing the brilliance of Bob Hoskins’ mime work acting and reacting to nothing and then the same scene shown with the finished animation.
“Toon Stand-Ins” shows the rubber character models which were used in rehearsals to give the live actors an idea of the size of the animated characters they’d be sharing the frame with. This runs 3 ¼ minutes.
“Behind the Ears” is the primary production featurette running 36 ¾ minutes. In it, Steven Spielberg, director Robert Zemeckis, producers Frank Marshall and Don Hahn, animator Richard Williams, film editor Arthur Schmidt, cinematographer Dean Cundey, and composer Alan Silvestri divide the production efforts into “The Test,” “The Production” (live action material), “The Animation,” “The Music,” and “The Finale.”
“On Set!” shows Robert staging and Bob Hoskins filming two sequences with Benny the Cab. This runs 4 ¾ minutes.
There are 1080p promo trailers for Planes and Monsters University.
The second disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.
4.5/5 (not an average)
Masterful, unique, unsurpassed, Who Framed Roger Rabbit still amazes on this its twenty-fifth anniversary year. A beautiful video and audio transfer brings the film’s charm, humor, and excitement to high definition in a highly recommended video package.