Movies of 1988 Bracket Game: Twins Vs. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Today’s match focuses on two high-concept comedies that have’t held up as well as audiences might have expected them to. Twins was a massive hit thirty years ago. More than The Terminator, Twins was the movie that established Arnold Schwarzenegger as an A-list movie star. But as big as it was back in the day, the comedy hasn’t held up especially well. When was the last time you even thought of it? Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, on the other hand, is still pretty well liked I think. But it probably isn’t as highly regarded as we all thought it would be in the late 80’s when it was being hailed as an instant classic.
But first, let’s review the results of yesterday’s contest.
This one was neck-and-neck all day yesterday. Overnight, a winner emerged. With just over 50% of the votes, Big eked out a win over Coming to America despite some aspects of the movie that left modern-day viewers a little queasy. That means Tom Hanks will face the winner of today’s match-up in the second round.
We have had some close match-ups in the last few days. I try as much as possible to make these difficult choices. I don’t think that is likely to be the case today.
Supposedly, the writer who came up with the idea for Twins did so in a Hollywood bathroom. The story goes that he had just been rejected by a studio executive on an unrelated pitch. Desperate to seal a deal, the writer came up with the idea of Schwarzenegger and DeVito as unlikely twins. It’s an obvious visual gag because, stay with me here, Schwarzenegger is a tall body builder and DeVito is a little, balding guy. Get it? I hope so because it really is the only joke in the movie. The two stars clearly had a blast making the movie and that helps make Twins a little more bearable than other one-joke comedies.
It could have been worse. Schwarzenegger wanted to change up his image with a comedy and he thought he could hedge his bets by working with DeVito. They had two scripts to choose from. Obviously, Twins was one of them. The other was Suburban Commando which starred Hulk Hogan and Christopher Lloyd. Hogan and Lloyd were waiting in the wings to snap up whatever script Schwarzenegger and DeVito passed on.
Twins opened to mixed reviews, but audiences flocked to see it anyway. It became Schwarzenegger’s first movie to gross over $100 million dollars. DeVito technically crossed that threshold with Terms of Endearment, but Twins was the biggest hit of his career up to that point. Do I expect Twins to advance to the next round? No. But as the fifth highest-grossing movie of the year, I felt like it needed to be included in the game.
Roger Rabbit was based on the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Disney snapped up the rights to the book soon after it was published. They attempted to make an animated adaptation with Paul Reubens as the voice of Roger, but it didn’t pan out. Robert Zemeckis campaigned to helm the movie, but based on his lackluster track record at the box office, Disney turned him down.
Three years later, a lot had changed. Disney had been through a hostile regime change and Michael Eisner was looking to put his stamp on the company. After the failure of The Black Cauldron, Eisner wanted to shut down the animation department, but his studio head, Jeffrey Katzenberg, convinced him to reconsider. Katzenberg thought that by blending live actors with cartoons, Roger Rabbit could save Disney animation. With a budget of $50 million dollars, Eisner decided to share the risk by cutting in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment on the deal. Spielberg retained a great deal of creative control and the lion’s share of the profits. Disney held the merchandising rights.
In the intervening years, Robert Zemeckis had greatly improved his track record with box office hits Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future. This time when he expressed an interest in directing Roger Rabbit, Disney said “sure!” The movie was praised by critics for its groundbreaking effects which were a vast improvement over previous attempts to insert live actors into animation. With a gross north of $150 million dollars, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? became the second highest earner of the year.
For a time, Roger Rabbit was a sparkling jewel in the Disney crown. But the relationship with Amblin and Spielberg went south pretty quickly. Eventually, the cartoon rabbit was all but forgotten.
Which of these high concept comedies is your favorite?