Movies of 1988 Bracket Game: Big Vs. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
We are rounding out the second round of the Movies of 1988 bracket game. After today’s match, we will have our final four. Today’s contest is between two popular comedies both of which had some cross-generational appeal. Roger Rabbit‘s blend of animation and live action appealed to both kids and adults. To sweeten the deal, the movie includes a heavy dose of nostalgia and some risqué gags that will go over the heads of most youngsters. Big created a fantasy that plays out differently depending on your age. Kids could fantasize what adult life and the freedom that comes with it might be like whereas adults could imagine what it might be like to recapture some of their childhood wonder.
One of these ostensibly family friendly comedies will advance to the final four and the other will be eliminated from the game.
But first, we need to see which of yesterday’s movies advanced to the semi-finals.
Beetlejuice came out to an early lead. Bull Durham rallied later in the day, but it wasn’t enough. Beetlejuice won with over 60% of the votes. That means the winner of today’s match will face off against Michael Keaton’s ghost with the most in the final four!
To most people, Penny Marshall was Laverne from the popular sitcom, Laverne and Shirley. When Marshall decided to get behind the camera, she faced long odds. Sure, fellow sitcom star Ron Howard had made the transition to directing. But there weren’t many female directors in Hollywood in the 80’s. Marshall was about to become one of only a few trail blazers. Her first movie, the Whoopi Goldberg comedy, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, didn’t impress critics or audiences. But it was profitable which opened up the opportunity for Marshall to direct another movie.
A director’s second feature often falls prey to the sophomore curse. But Big would be the biggest hit of Marshall’s career. Never before had a movie directed by a woman grossed more than $100 million dollars. The movie’s success even translated into a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Hanks and another for Best Original Screenplay. (Both categories were won by Rain Man.) Marshall’s follow-up, Awakenings, was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor, but once again Marshall was overlooked. A League of Their Own (which reunited Marshall and Hanks) was another hit in 1992. Since then, Marshall has stayed active as a producer and director in TV and film, but her output has dwindled in the twenty-first century.
Robert Zemeckis started off as a protege of Steven Spielberg. His first two movies, I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) and Used Cars (1980), got decent reviews but they flopped at the box office. Zemeckis worried that if his next movie suffered a similar fate that he would be done as a director. He felt like he needed a hit and he needed to do it on his own without his mentor’s help. Fortunately for him, Zemeckis’ third movie, Romancing the Stone, was a commercial success.
Having proven himself, Zemeckis felt like it was okay to partner up with Spielberg again. But that brought with it a sense of responsibility. Spielberg had believed in Zemeckis when very few people in Hollywood did. The director didn’t want to let his mentor down. By all outward appearances, he was in danger of doing exactly that with Back to the Future, Four weeks into filming, Zemeckis had to sell Spielberg on the idea of replacing their leading man, Eric Stoltz with the newly available Michael J. Fox.
All’s well that end’s well (unless you are Stoltz). Back to the Future was a big hit. Zemeckis was on a roll. Flush with success, he could pick just about any project he wanted. Five years prior, Zemeckis had approached Disney about directing an adaptation of the book, Who Censored Roger Rabbit but Disney wasn’t interested. Now Disney was partnering with Spielberg’s company and Zemeckis had a proven track record, so he got his chance to make the movie.
Following the success of Roger Rabbit, Zemeckis directed back to back sequels to Back to the Future largely because he worried that if he didn’t someone else would do it poorly. In 1994, he won the Academy Award for Best Director for Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks. From that point on, Zemeckis alternated between more prestigious fare like Contact and Cast Away and commercial movies like Death Becomes Her and What Lies Beneath.
Zemeckis developed a reputation for being something of a technophile. Post Roger Rabbit, Zemeckis spent a lot of time blending live action and animation. Later in his career, Zemeckis became a pioneer of motion capture filmmaking in movies like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol. But the failure of Mars Needs Moms in 2011 more or less put an end to movies that consisted entirely of motion capture performances. Obviously, the technology remains widely used today in live action movies.
Which of these (sort of) kid-friendly comedies do you prefer?