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Relive "Roger Rabbit," one of Bob Hoskins' greatest roles (Blu-ray review)

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer (voice talent)

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When Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer) is framed for murder, it's up to Eddie Valiant (Hoskins), a down-on-his-luck detective, to bring justice to Toontown. Eddie, a former super-sleuth, has succumbed to the vices of alcohol and is no longer the man he once was. On top of it all, he has a hatred for Toons that stems back to the mysterious death of his beloved brother. But when Roger runs from the law to escape the dastardly clutches of the evil Judge Doom (Lloyd), Eddie must set aside his grudges and help solve the crime in this zany noire classic.

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The Breakdown:

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" broke ground in the late '80s, cleverly combining the use of animation with the real world. With the marvelous technology of Blu-ray, the movie looks better than ever, with crystal-clear, re-mastered visuals. That innovative technology has stood the test of time and looks even better today than ever. The live action actors do a fantastic job of making the movie look believable - and, with a bit of imagination, a lot of it actually looks legitimate. Eddie Valiant really looks like he's surrounded by and interacting with a bunch of cartoons! (More on that later.)

Speaking of the cartoons, this is probably the only place you'll ever get to see Donald and Daffy Duck play dueling pianos or Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny go skydiving together. Major kudos to whoever pulled the strings to get some of the most beloved Disney characters and Looney Tunes on the same screen together. That will probably never happen again.

As a side note, this soundtrack is incredible, capturing the mood of a '40s jazz club with the ominous sense of depression that permeates the city.

Christopher Lloyd is flat-out creepy. Judge Doom scared the Salt Lake City DVD Examiner as a child and he is just as frightening in the new millennium.

Charles Fleischer, who does quadruple duty in the film by voicing several of the animated characters, puts on the show of his career with his work as Roger Rabbit. Not only is the guy hilarious, genius, and multi-talented, but he created a quintessential part of American pop culture with one of the most iconic voices in the history of cinema.

And then there's the late, great Bob Hoskins. In one of the best roles of his storied career, Hoskins is great in his interactions with his animated costars, especially when sharing the screen with Roger. While Hoskins' physical comedy is wonderful throughout, the magic really starts happening when Eddie hits Toontown and is immersed in animation. Heaven only knows how difficult that role must have been to perform, and Hoskins does it with ease.

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The Verdict:

Originally released in 1988, many young adults will remember "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" as a cartoon. Undoubtedly, the animated aspects of the film will stick out in the minds of new, impressionable audiences. But 25 years later, it will all seem like an entirely new movie for that same original audience, who will, at long last, see the it for what it really is - a brilliant blend of cartoons and live action.

The one tiny knock I have on the film is that those who haven't watched it since their childhood might be surprised at how much innuendo there is. There's quite a bit. And it's not trashy or done entirely in bad taste - it's just a little jarring to see and hear some of the stuff in what, otherwise, would be considered a "kids" show. Don't let the animation fool you. There's some spicy stuff in there.

The Blu-ray disc includes what all Blu-ray discs should include: a plethora of in-depth bonus features, so those who choose to pick this up and take it home will definitely get their money's worth.

Despite a bit of adult humor, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is a movie you should watch (or re-watch). Its groundbreaking technology and memorable characters make the movie an all-time classic. It's smart, it's rambunctious, and it's delightfully funny - and that's what makes "Roger Rabbit" so terrific, more than two decades later.

Perhaps Roger said it best: "A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

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Similar movies: "Mary Poppins" (1964), "Dick Tracy" (1990), "The Muppets" (2011)

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Blu-ray bonus features:

- Audio in: English, French, Russian

- Subtitles in: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, "Toontown Confidential"

- "Toontown Confidential" subtitles option provides on-screen pop-up trivia and fun facts throughout the film

- Optional feature-length audio commentary

- Three digitally remastered, Disney-and-Spielberg-produced "Roger Rabbit" shorts. The animation is impeccable on Blu-ray, by the way.

- "Who Made Roger Rabbit": A How'd-They-Do-It? featurette hosted by the one and only Charles Fleischer. Definitely worth a watch, as Fleischer is a hoot, starring side-by-side with his animated counterpart. Two fun aspects of this segment are a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Fleischer on the set in his Roger Rabbit costume and a fascinating look at the special effects that helped make the Toons come to life.

- One deleted scene: "The Pig Head" sequence, with introduction by Robert Zemeckis and several animators.

- "Before and After": A split-screen featurette showing one Toontown scene before and after the finalized animation and visual effects.

- "Toon Stand-ins": Another look at the props and special effects that went into creating a realistic animation and live action hybrid.

- "Behind the Ears": Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, cast, and crew discuss the difficult process of creating the movie in this rather lengthy documentary.

- "On Set!": The making of one scene with Benny the Cab, as witnessed by the cast and crew, pre-production.

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Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Studio: Touchstone Pictures, Amblin Entertainment

Running time: 104 minutes

MPAA rating: PG with no official specifications. The film includes some sensuality and innuendo surrounding Jessica Rabbit, mainly, but also has some dialogue that may be inappropriate for young audiences. Several characters, including a cartoon baby, struggle with alcohol and smoking addictions. The movie's climax involves some frightening images and sequences. Would likely be rated PG-13 if re-released today.

Costars Kathleen Turner (voice talent), Joanna Cassidy, Alan Tilvern, Stubby Kaye

Blu-ray release date: March 12, 2013

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