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While I have always marveled at WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT ($30) for its technical achievements, the story is just a little too predictable to make it a truly great film in my book. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT is a phenomenal concept movie that seamlessly blends live actors with animated characters in such a way that they appear to be occupying the same physical space. In the world of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, 1940’s Hollywood is inhabited by the great stars of silver screen as well as the characters that appear in cartoons. Like other motion picture actors, the Toons are employed at the various movie studios where they star in the cartoons that have made them famous. However, unlike other actors, the Toons live in a somewhat segregated Hollywood neighborhood called Toontown. And, as the name implies, Toontown is a completely animated community that doesn’t resemble the real world. Fans of classic animation should note that Toontown is about the only place that one can see the great Warner Bros. and Disney character interact with each other (as well as human co-stars).

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT opens with "Somethin’s Cookin" a hilarious Roger Rabbit/Baby Herman cartoon that turns out to be not a cartoon at all. As the audience quickly discovers, we are on the soundstage for the disastrous filming of "Somethin’s Cookin." The cartoon is behind schedule because its star Roger Rabbit can’t concentrate and keeps flubbing his lines. It seems that Roger and his wife Jessica are having marital troubles and it is effecting Roger’s performance on the job. Hoping to discover the truth about Jessica, the studio hires private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to get the goods on her. Unfortunately for Roger, Eddie takes some incriminating pictures of Jessica playing "patty-cake" with Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), the infamous "Gag King" and owner of Toontown. After seeing the photographs of Jessica, Roger flies off in a rage and disappears.

The next thing you know, Marvin Acme is dead and Roger Rabbit is the number one suspect. Eddie Valiant thinks he is done with the whole messy affair, until Roger Rabbit shows up on his doorstep claiming his innocence. Because a Toon killed his brother, Valiant wants nothing to do with Roger and tries to get rid of him before he is arrested for "aiding and abetting." However, when the sinister Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) starts sniffing around, Valiant starts doing some real detective work, and uncovers a conspiracy involving Toontown. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT also stars Joanna Cassidy as Eddie Valiant’s streetwise girlfriend Dolores and features the vocal talents of Charles Fleischer (delightful as Roger Rabbit), Mel Blanc, Mae Questel, Tony Anselmo, Joe Alaskey, June Foray, Amy Irving and an uncredited Kathleen Turner as the speaking voice of Jessica Rabbit.

As an avid DVD fan, I have to look upon this release of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT as something of a missed opportunity. First of all, the DVD offers zero supplements- this disc really should have been a full-blown special edition that included all the Roger Rabbit cartoons. Second, in typical Buena Vista fashion, this wide screen release from Touchstone Home Video has NOT been enhanced for 16:9 playback. Third, and most serious, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT has been edited, changing a few "dirty" frames of the movie that have been deemed offensive by the powers that be. WHO CENSORED ROGER RABBIT indeed!

As it stands, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT has been provided with a rather good Letterbox transfer that restores the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. When viewed on a 4:3 display, the transfer is sharp and nicely detailed. The film element exhibits occasional speckles, but they never draw one’s attention away from the movie. Additionally, film grain is noticeable in a couple of places. Color reproduction is very good, with the animated characters being rendered in nicely saturated hues, while the living actors have very healthy looking flesh tones. Blacks are deep and true, plus the image has good contrast. DVD authoring is very competent, so there are no visible traces of digital compression artifacts.

The film’s soundtrack has been upgraded to Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix that proves to be quite pleasing. Sure, one can tell that the track originated in the era of standard surround, but the mix is still pretty lively. The forward soundstage provides a very open sonic environment, with good channel separation. Dialogue is clean and precisely focused. The rear channels are quite active, delivering sound effects, ambient sounds and plenty of musical fill. Alan Silvestri’s marvelous score sounds fantastic and is very well integrated into the surround mix. The soundtrack has respectable bass reproduction that really enhances the musical score. A French language soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, along with English subtitles.

The interactive menus are very basic, providing only the standard scene selection and set up features. The DVD jacket indicates that a theatrical trailer is included on the DVD. It is not.




DVD reviews are Copyright 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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