I’m not gonna lie, the first time I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit I was much more interested in Jessica Rabbit than Roger Rabbit!
A nice variety of classic capsule reviews this week,
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988, Robert Zemeckis, United States Of America) ****
This belongs on the list just for the perfect job it did of blending animation with live action, as well as for the giddy mixing of Warner Brothers cartoon characters and Disney cartoon characters. The Daffy and Donald piano duet, Dumbo outside the window, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse on screen at the same time, so many awesome moments in that regard. But, when you look at the rest of the movie you realize how truly awesome a work it is. Not only does it present the tremendous moral conundrum of what a toon is (for instance what is a sentient toon? Is Roger one, is the shoe that is dipped one, where is the demarcation line? etc.) but it is a classic film noir with some of the slickest dialogue put to screen as well as an award worthy performance from Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant. Easily in my top 20, a tremendous movie on every level.
American Splendor (2003, Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini, United States Of America) ***1/2
First, Paul Giamatti is amazing in this, but so is Hope Davis and no one ever notices her. The weaving of reality and Hollywood is done so well and presents such a new and interesting take on the biopic. The subject material itself is tremendous, its both sad and hilarious at the same time. At the end of the day American Splendor is Seinfeld, a movie about nothing that ends up being about everything as a result. But, unlike Seinfeld, you won’t find caricatures in American Splendor and everything is much, much darker, splendid movie.
Stage Door (1937, Gregory La Cava, United States Of America) ***1/2
Haunting film disguised as a comedy. Like I always say, Katharine Hepburn is Katharine Hepburn. But, Ginger Rogers brings the goods right alongside her, as does Adolphe Menjou. However, the performance from Andrea Leeds as the near death actress Kay Hamilton was easily the best part of the movie. Her performance is what made you realize that all the big talking and tough talk was nothing but bluster. You feel for these girls because they are real and because their lives are full of nothing but tragedy. At the same time no matter what happens you realize that life goes on, they get parts, they die, they get married, etc.. That’s why the final scene was the perfect closure, it sends that final message, that a lot of bad stuff and good stuff has happened to these women, but life goes on.
The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988, Martin Scorsese, Canada/United States Of America) *
Really couldn’t stand this film. My first problem was the fact that like usual Hollywood decided that Jesus and all his followers would be whitey white white, and not of dark skin like they actually were. Oh, but all the villains, or the church that doesn’t agree with Jesus, they have a bit of an olive complexion to them, what a bunch of typical Hollywood horse crap. The last forty five minutes was some very good stuff, full of a man finding out why he is the man he is and why he is also the son of god. The problem is that the first two hours were excessively dull and sleep inducing and were also extremely repetitive. In order to set up the last forty five minutes maybe an hour of that first two was actually needed. But, instead of the good story of discovery, failure, and renewal that The Last Temptation Of Christ should have been we were treated to a bloated Hollywood farce.
Chicago (2002, Rob Marshall, Germany/United States Of America) **
Didn’t like this film, and that lies with the fact that Renée Zellweger couldn’t pull off either the acting part or the singing and dancing parts. She’s not hot or pretty enough for me to actually buy into her whole dame routine, and she couldn’t carry any of the tunes enough for me to care about her character when she was singing. Catherine Zeta-Jones was decent, but again, she couldn’t pull off the singing to a fashion that I cared about. She could dance though, and I thought she pulled off the acting well enough. Richard Gere I actually thought did a good job in all his roles, he wasn’t outstanding, but he was good all around. Queen Latifah was good as well, singing wise, acting wise she was okay. John C. Reilly was outstanding, but he’s one of my favorite actors anyways. Overall it’s a decent movie, but not good or really worth your time or anything.
This week managed to bring three great movies into the discussion. But, of those three only one is among my all-time favorites and among the films I consider to be of master work quality. Who Framed Roger Rabbit takes home the retro movie of the week honors. I’ll be back next week with five more retro capsule reviews!