I really enjoyed this movie when I was a kid. It came out when I was 7 – so I was prime Roger Rabbit age. It was a….different time. That movie was huge. It was maybe the first time I was aware of movies as blockbusters. It was huge, and then I didn’t think about the movie for about a decade. In the mid-90s, I remember Who Framed Roger Rabbit? being in the TV Guide. It was given 5 stars, and I remember being shocked at how highly regarded it was (because TV Guide, obviously, was the ultimate barometer of a movie’s quality). I can still picture those five little black stars, a quarter century later.
Weird what the mind holds on to.
The book, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? is substantially different from the movie. For starters, the titular character isn’t nearly as annoying as the movie version. It was hard not to hear that voice, and see those mannerisms, but that’s the beauty of books – you are tied to the choices of actors and directors.
That’s not entirely true in this case, though, because I listened to the audio book version. The narrator, L.J. Ganser, does the character more like Jimmy Stewart. So that was different. And it worked pretty well.
The plot of this book is pretty substantially different from the movie. In the movie, Roger hires PI Eddie Valiant to investigate his wife, Jessica Rabbit, who is rumored to be having an affair with Marvin Acme, owner of Acme Corporation and Toontown – where all the cartoons live. After Valiant takes compromising photos of the two, Roger refuses to believe that his wife is unfaithful, then Acme turns up dead and Roger is the prime suspect. Valiant encounters Judge Doom, a sinister character who uses something named “The Dip” to kill ‘toons. The movie kind of goes from there, but this is the basic setup.
The book, on the other hand, is different in virtually every way. Roger is a second-rate character in a comic strip, and he hires Eddie Valiant to investigate his employers, the DeGreasy brothers, who promised Roger that he’d get his own strip and potentially sell his contract to a mysterious but unnamed buyer. The DeGreasy brothers claim that Roger never got his own strip because he isn’t talented enough. Also, Jessica Rabbit has left Roger, and much is made about what she was even doing with him in the first place. Someone is killed – but it’s not “Marvin Acme”, who isn’t even in the book. I won’t reveal who it is, though, as it’s quite a departure from the movie. Most of the rest of the book is Valiant investigating this murder, as the initial reason Roger hired him turns out to be pretty baseless. There is also no “Judge Doom” or “the Dip”.
What is consistent, though, is that Eddie Valiant is hard nosed, surely, and exactly what you’d expect from a 1940s film noir staring a middle aged man with a granite jaw. Also, ‘toons aren’t respected or well liked by people – especially Valiant – though I don’t think the reason given in the movie (that his brother was murdered by ‘toons) ever comes up.
This second class status for the ‘toons has deep roots, and is foundational to America. The initial Europeans have a Thanksgiving dinner with native ‘toons, and Asian ‘toons were brought over to build the railroads. I didn’t get this from the movie, so much, but it seems pretty clear that Wolf is using ‘toons to talk about racism.
Regardless of what TV guide thinks, I don’t think I’d give the movie 5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though. It was a lot of fun.