Beginning with a montage that compares the frenzy of Hitler’s fan base to Beatlemania, “Jojo Rabbit” shoots immediately into Mel Brooks territory with its “out of bounds” hilarious satire. But it also has that irresistible heart found in other comedies from writer/director Taika Waititi.
Synopsis: Set in Germany during WWII, this comedy follows a young boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) who is a part of Adolf Hitler’s army and has dreams of capturing a Jewish person for Hitler in order to become his best friend. But one day he is confronted with a dilemma, when he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding a teenage Jewish girl in the walls of his home. Also, Jojo has an imaginary friend. It’s Hitler. And it’s played by Waititi himself (a Jewish man).
So, I get it. This synopsis sounds like it very well could be an unpleasant watch. A heartwarming comedy about a child Nazi? Yikes. At the very least the logistics of making a movie like this sounds insane; let alone getting us (the audience) to laugh, as well as root for its characters. But this is the magic trick performed by Waititi. And it is a great one.
As much praise as I can heap on the performances from a supporting cast which includes Johansson (who is surprising good in this) Sam Rockwell, who plays the Hitler Youth commander and Stephen Merchant who plays a member of the Gestapo, to adorable newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, who is (again) adorable as the titular Jojo, everything I loved about this movie had to do with Waititi. His performance as the imaginary friend Hitler, is absolutely inspired. But this shouldn’t be a surprise as Waititi has always shown himself to be a fantastic physical comedian. That said, what the man should receive Oscar buzz for is his direction.
Waititi as a director takes this would be “problematic” concept and creates a superb narrative. He keeps the comedy at a high level, while continuously reminding audiences that what we’re watching is set during an actual genocide. Also, he makes Jojo a lovable character, while at the same time showcasing his ignorance and condemning his beliefs.
Final Thought: This may seem odd to hear, but “Jojo Rabbit” is a hilarious coming of age story for the whole family (well, I mean, it’s still PG-13). Also, at the very least this movie answers the question: What would you do if you found out that your son was a Hitler fanatic…or a Trump fanatic?
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