One of my favorite memories was when my parents went out of town in 1988 and I went to one aunt’s house and my brother went to another. My aunt took me to see Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and we talked about it for years. I’ve seen this movie at least two dozen times, I’ve played the absolutely terrible NES game, and now I’ve read the original book. This is not a novelization, but the book this was adapted from. So reading this novel made me realize who absolutely inspired that movie is.
The book is….not great. It’s hugely inventive and some of the different conceits it creates are great. The toons’ words come up in word clouds (like dialog in comics) and float and eventually collapse. The Roger Rabbit we spend most of our time with is an embodied persona, not the real toon. And what’s really good: the toons are comics, not cartoons, who enact scenes for a photographer to become the Sunday comics.
So those are great, but the execution is pretty bad. The writing is tired, and boring, and the plot drags on with too many twists, and not in a good way. The movie really understood what needed to happen to make this book work on the screen. The biggest choice they make is to set it in the 1940s, as opposed to the novel’s contemporary setting, which is almost an anachronism. The movie realizes that making it a spin off the old Hollywood tropes of post 1950s cinema makes so much more sense.