After hearing the sad news about actor Bob Hoskins, I popped on my DVD of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and here are some initial thoughts
WFRR is one of my favourite films. It came out the year I was born, and I’ve seen it a tonne of times over the many years. What makes is great is a bizarre concept (it’s based on the novella Who Censored Roger Rabbit) of film noir with cartoons. Maybe this is because Disney had yet to explode with its 1990s boom, and cartoons in general had become more action-orientated (He-Man, Thundercats, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, BraveStarr etc) so there is a whiff of nostalgia tied to the 1947 setting. This strange combination works so well.
The plot is quite complicated for a young person, but breezes along so you’d tied into the action and suspense. It’s a PG, despite being full of cartoons the film features sexual references, alcoholism and plenty of murder.
And finally, every time you watch it, you notice another little tiny piece of trivia, another little Easter egg. The fact Goofy was accused of spying in a newspaper headline, that according to a plaque on the box, Yousemite Sam gave Valiant the Toon gun, the little grumbles that Benny The Cab makes, the little details of the Weasel Gang…it’s a full, colourful film with a straight simple plot that doesn’t make it overcrowded, except the final celebratory scene of cartoonary.
But it’s Bob Hoskins who pins it all together, crafting a bitter, lemon-faced old drunkard spitting and griping, before a charged and keen detective who evolves into a fun, hopeful and heroic clown. All the time, Hoskins plays off puppeteers, inanimate objects and thin air. He has chemistry with cartoons in a way modern actors struggle with CGI creations. Hoskins commits to the role, treats it with all the seriousness of any crime thriller, and it’s that commitment to the drama and suspense alongside the zaniness which makes the whole thing work!
I love him in other films, his little daft cameo in Brazil and his working class mentor-character in Made In Dagenham. But he’ll always be, to me, Eddie Valiant. Flawed, grumbling, a serious miserable man in a world of madcap cartoons.
We’ve got to find humour to combat the Judges and freeway-buildings.
“A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have.”- Roger Rabbit