Jojo Rabbit (2019)
“Jojo Rabbit” stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell, and Scarlett Johansson. Released on October 18, 2019, the film is about a German boy who discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic.
The film is directed by Taika Waititi, who also directed films such as “Eagle vs Shark”, “What We Do in the Shadows”, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”, and “Thor: Ragnarok”. It is based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. There are plenty of people in this world that are selfish and cruel, but none of them are comparable to the lowest of the low, the meanest of the mean, the kings of dread themselves: the Nazis. Lead by the notorious Adolf Hitler during World War II, the Nazis would stop at nothing to dominate our entire planet. Luckily for us, their plan failed and Hitler killed himself to avoid capture. It’s always fun for us to hate on the Nazis for their disgusting deeds, but do you know what’s more fun than hating on them? Making fun of them, of course. After successfully adding some comedic flavor to the “Thor” franchise with “Thor: Ragnarok”, Taika Waititi is returning to his usual low-budget oddball comedy routine with a new film that offers a unique and light-hearted perspective on the Nazis. With a concept like this, there’s no telling how it will turn out. It could turn out to be either oddly entertaining or painfully offensive. Based on the reviews it’s been getting since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, it fell somewhere down the middle, with some critics enjoying how it handled the satirical portrayal of the Nazis, while others think otherwise. This was another film that I was looking forward to since it was released last month, mostly because of Waititi’s involvement and its unusual concept. Now that I finally saw it for myself, does it live up to its hype?
Described as an “anti-hate satire”, the film takes place in Nazi Germany during World War II, where a young boy named Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (Davis) is attending a Hitler Youth training camp. He is supported by his idiotic imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (Waititi), his single mother Rosie (Johansson), and his best friend Yorki (Archie Yates). However, he begins to question his belief in the Nazi way when he finds out that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa (McKenzie) in the attic. A plot like this could’ve gone in either direction based on how it was handled. I mean, who wants to see a light-hearted film about the Nazis? Fortunately for me, Waititi was able to make this concept work. By combining the film’s use of dark comedy with its familiar, yet inspiring, themes, it offered a distinctive and heartwarming satire that showcases the power of love over hate. The best way to describe Waititi’s style is that it provided a series of moments that were odd, upbeat, and charming. When he’s not in front of the camera dressing up as the childish Nazi leader, he displayed his own talent behind the scenes by envisioning an unusual fantasy that’s more engaging and delightful than the realistic, cold-hearted nature of the time period. Sure, it’s not as accurate as the history books, but for the sake of maintaining its tone, it hardly needs to. The entire cast was undeniably stunning in their roles, especially Roman Griffin Davis in his feature film debut as Jojo and Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa. Taika Waititi put on a really good show as Adolf Hitler, making him my personal highlight of the film. His satirical portrayal of the infamous Nazi leader was exactly what I wanted it to be: hilarious and somehow relatable. It’s almost as if Waititi read our minds as to what we really thought of Hitler. The humor in the film was well-balanced with a story that’s thoughtful and endearing, although I can clearly understand why it’s not for everyone. It’s full of jokes that poke fun of the Nazis’ personalities and their beliefs, which can be both cleverly funny for those who enjoy well-written black comedies and a bit offensive for those who are sensitive to this type of topic. There were some humorous parts that I thought were hysterical, but there were also some parts that didn’t hit their marks as well as others.
Overall, “Jojo Rabbit” has the right amount of oddities and charm to make fun of the Nazis in the most amusing way possible. It often falls into familiar territory and its portrayal of the Nazis can be a bit insulting for the sensitive ones when it comes to the jokes. Nonetheless, it’s a well-written and humorous satire that once again displays Waititi’s unique filmmaking talent. The cast was wonderful in their roles and the film’s mixture of comedy and heart was nicely executed in terms of Waititi’s direction and script. It’s far from perfect, but it has enough entertaining moments to make its strange concept fun for me. If you’re a fan of Waititi’s other works, you won’t be disappointed with his latest film.
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