Picks and Pans Review: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

06/27/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Disney is always out front when it comes to combining cartoons with live action (Song of the South, Mary Poppins). But Uncle Walt's animators, headed this time by Richard (The Pink Panther Strikes Again) Williams, have outdone themselves. Sound the trumpets: Here is historic, hot-ziggety entertainment with humans and Toons blending seamlessly and three-dimensionally. To show how far technology has advanced, director Robert (Back to the Future) Zemeckis shrewdly opens his movie with an old-fashioned, two-dimensional cartoon. A baby named Herman crawls toward a cookie jar, narrowly escaping disfigurement from sharp knives, light sockets and an oven set to volcano heat. But never fear. It's the baby's protector, a rabbit named Roger, who gets filleted, fried and flambéed. We laugh at each mishap that befalls the kwazy rabbit. This, after all, is pretend violence. That's when Zemeckis pulls the rug out. Baby Herman and Roger Rabbit walk off the flat set into the real world where nothing is pretend. The time is 1947. The place is Toontown, a movie studio in Hollywood where humans and the animated Toons interact naturally and often nastily. A whiskey-voiced Baby Herman chomps on a stogie and grabs at real-life script girls. Roger Rabbit is suspected of murdering a mogul (Stubby Kaye) who has been "playing pattycake" with Roger's sexpot wife, Jessica. She's also a Toon but drawn in human form and gifted with the sultry voice of Kathleen Turner. Roger relies on a down-at-the-heels detective, played by the excellent Bob (Mona Lisa) Hoskins, to clear his name. But when a jealous barmaid (Joanna Cassidy) catches Hoskins in the company of Jessica, complications ensue. "I'm not bad," says Jessica, "I'm just drawn that way." The sexual innuendo in the script by Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman will probably sail over kids' heads. More worrisome for parents of younger children is the villain, a sinister judge played by Christopher Lloyd, who kills beloved cartoon characters by immersing them in a bubbling acid solution he dubs the "Dip." Adults may better appreciate the film's oddball humor. But all ages will thrill to the pure enchantment of the visuals. There's Hoskins joyriding through L.A. in a cartoon cab, Daffy and Donald Duck uniting for a piano duet and a knockout finale featuring the starry likes of Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Porky Pig, Snow White, Bambi and Dumbo. Your eyeballs have no choice but to go boinnnnng. (PG)

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