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Meta-daptations: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

August 3, 2009
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By Nat

Even more than Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis left an indelible stamp on Generation Y. Had he stopped at Back to the Future, that would have been enough, but no—he went on with Back to the Future Part II(which is actually the superior film; you know you have something special when the best scene in a movie full of good scenes is expository) and Forrest Gump and, yeah, Romancing the Throne, but the one we all love best is Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

I know of no one who wasn’t blown away by this movie, hell, to this day, I still can’t stand to watch that cartoon shoe getting dipped. Maybe that’s a childhood thing, but more likely it’s a testament to the top-notch screenplay, which draws you into this world where toons and humans coexist, and, oddly enough, there’s not much difference between the two.CWH

That may be the masterstroke of Roger Rabbit—a lesser film would leave it at the gimmick of live-action animation, but not this one—the cartoons have just as much personality as the live actors, maybe more. We can quote Roger, Jessica, Benny, Baby Herman—can we quote Eddie Valiant? Or Dolores? (Well, there is, “Say hello, Harvey.”)

And the animation is still jaw-dropping. Rewatch the scene with Roger and Eddie in Eddie’s apartment: The choreography is just…damn. The camera zooms in, pans out, swashes across the room, spins around, and all the while the set is manipulated in perfect sync with Roger, as is Bob Hoskins, who, considering the difficulty of his role and the skill with which he pulls it off, deserved an Oscar. Still trying to figure out how they set up the sequence where Roger scurries up the venetian blinds then leaps across the room.

And how about Christopher Lloyd? The reason he’s remembered as Doc Brown is because we’re too scared to remember him as Judge Doom.  He carries himself with the stiffness of an undertaker and then flies off the buggy at the flick of an eye, screaming his little heart out and bludgeoning his henchweasels.

But I think we’ve all seen it, so I don’t need to go about how great it is. Instead, I’ll move on to the book. You did know that, right? It is based on a book.

Well, sort of.

In 1981, Gary K. Wolf penned Who Censored Roger Rabbit?Which features Roger, Eddie Valiant, Jessica, and Baby Herman. Aaaaaand that’s about it. Roger actually dies fairly early in the narrative (hence, “censored”); it’s his doppleganger (yeah, apparently in Wolf’s world, cartoons are able to fashion copies of themselves, which are referred to as “dopplegangers” and which only exist for a few hours before dissipating) that accompanies Eddie on his investigation. And Roger and Jessica are estranged. And he’s a comic strip character. And he speaks in word balloons. And what the crap?

There’s no Judge Doom and no weasels and no Marvin Acme and is Benny in it? I think so, but I think he’s a bug. And as a curiosity is pretty much the only reason anyone would have for reading this. It’s not a bad book, but it’s nothing special and certainly nothing like the great film extrapolated from it.

I began this with a groan toward anyone who unconsciously favors the book over its cinematic adaptation, and to those jackasses, I’ll conclude with this: Read Who Censored Roger Rabbit?and tell me it’s better than the film. There’s no better example of a meta-daptation that carries the book further than it would ever go. 10/10

That about wraps it up for this series, though next time I’ll include some honorable mentions. It’s been fun, kiddies, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. More importantly, I hope it’s given you ammo against those snooty bibliophiles. If they still disagree, hit ‘em with a boxing-glove mallet.

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