A film noir detective story combined with cartoon characters just shouldn't work.
But this one does.
I first saw "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" in the theater more than 30 years ago and loved it. I only recently found it on DVD and, remembering how much I enjoyed it back then, decided to purchase it. So glad I did because, despite the fact it's three decades old, it hasn't lost any of its charm. It's funny, very well acted by the humans in the film, and just as fresh in its concept as it was back in the day.
The script has all the plot elements of a classic film noir movie from the Forties: A down-at-the-heels private eye, a long-suffering girlfriend, an intriguing mystery, and a villain worthy of the name. Set in Los Angeles just after World War II, it captures the glory of Hollywood in its heyday when the studios reigned supreme and movie stars were glamorous. It has classic cartoon characters woven into the storyline: Betty Boop as a cocktail waitress, Droopy Dog running an elevator, and Donald Duck and Daffy Duck playing piano at a nightclub are just some of the many cartoon characters that make appearances in this very clever film.
Charles Fleischer, as the voice of Roger Rabbit (and a few other characters as well) is brilliant and Warner Bros. legendary voice actor Mel Blanc brings his special talents to the film as well. The late Bob Hoskins, as the slightly seedy private eye investigating the murder of a man who sells joke gadgets, is great in the role. He brings just the right touch of humor to the role without overdoing it. Christopher Lloyd as the judge of Toontown is downright scary in the role.
The blend of animation and live action is seamless, which is pretty remarkable given the age of this film. These days we've come to expect that from filmmakers but 30 years ago there were very few studios that would have attempted to do it because of the expense, the time-consuming process, and the often-less-than-stellar results. Touchstone Pictures and producer Steven Spielberg are, in my opinion, to be congratulated for taking the risk as is director Roger Zemeckis for agreeing to helm it.
In summary: A great film with memorable characters, a lot of humor, and a movie that you can watch with your kids that is worth every one of 5 stars.