The story is simple: A famous movie star in 1947 is finding his career threatened because his attention is being drawn toward his marital problems. His wife, a slinky lounge singer, has been playing "patty-cake" with an oily gag writer, and our hero is a mess about it.
In order to get his star to see what a tramp his wife is so that he'll dump her and get back to work, the star's boss hired a raggedy private eye named Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to get photographic evidence of the affair. He does, but then the wife's boyfriend ends up murdered and the distraught movie star finds himself the prime suspect. Suddenly Valiant, who can't stand the actor, is forced to clear the thespian's name. In the process, he exposes the diabolical scheme of the real murderer, a monstrously evil villain named Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd).
Given the movie's gritty style, its meticulous recreation of 1940s Hollywood and Hoskins' roguish charm, this alone would make "Roger Rabbit" a film noir gem. But when you add one more small element--the fact that practically every major role other than Hoskins' and Lloyd's is played by cartoon characters--"Roger Rabbit" is rocketed into a genre all its own.
Using film techniques that make one weary even trying to comprehend them, director Robert Zemeckis and a crew the size of a small town have married live-action and animation so successfully that it is truly astonishing. But technique--no matter how accomplished--cannot carry an entire movie. Writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman have written a script that is a flat-out howl for anyone who grew up worshipping the classic cartoons to which this film pays homage. Typical hard-bitten private eye slang takes on a whole new meaning in this setting ("I would've been here sooner but I had to shake the weasels" is literal instead of figurative), and anyone who has ever rapped their knuckles on a door to the beat of "Shave and a haircut" will die laughing when this inane ditty threatens to spell the undoing of Roger Rabbit, Valiant's beleaguered charge. The filmmakers have immersed themselves in cartoon lore, and it makes for a nostalgic and wholly outrageous experience. Starring Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd and Charlie Fleischer. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. Produced by Robert Watts and Frank Marshall. A Buena Vista release. Rated PG for harmless violence