Thursday, November 14, 2019

Jojo Rabbit: Movie Review

Very funny absurdist comedy.
Jojo Rabbit begins at a Hitler Youth Training Camp. Boys are taught important life skills like how to stab people and how to throw hand grenades which comes right after how not to throw hand grenades. While the girls are taught how to get pregnant. These are 10 year-old girls. During a time of war, and really just at all times, German women can best serve their country by producing more Nazis. If it’s not obvious, and I really hope it is obvious, this is a satire. A satire set in Nazi Germany during World War II. 2019

Directed by: Taika Waititi

Screenplay by: Taika Waititi
Based on the novel by Christine Leunens

Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie

The protagonist is Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) a 10-year-old proud junior Nazi who is nicknamed Jojo Rabbit by his personal hero Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). In what might be the cleverest, funniest choice made in movie in 2019, Hitler is an imaginary friend. Writer-director Waititi cast himself so perfectly as Hitler that for a few scenes you are actually wondering maybe Hitler really is friends with a 10-year-old boy? But in hilarious transitions that sends Jojo back to reality and Hitler galloping away into the non-identifiable ethers, Jojo Rabbit succeeds as a Hitler satire.

When it’s funny, it’s very funny. Sam Rockwell stars as an incompetent but friendly member of the SS. He and other officials will educate the boys on absolutely absurd methods of identifying Jews. Hitler tries guiding Jojo and giving life advice, and this is Adolf Hitler with the mentality and maturity of a ten year-old.

When it’s not funny, it’s trying to be heartfelt and serious. Absurdist satires don’t transition easily to heartfelt dramas, and I spent much of these scenes desperately hoping for more Nazis to show up so the film can make fun of them.

Scarlett Johansson stars as Jojo’s mother. A character who has no notable characteristics until the plot needs something from her. The other character that tries to help transition the film into earnest and sincere territory is Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa, a Jewish girl hiding in Jojo’s attic. McKenzie has the unenviable position of straddling absurd comedy and heartfelt emotions. She does admirably well with that job particularly with the comedy and leading Jojo astray with the many ludicrous stories of how to identify a Jew, and then a few cute moments where she sees through Jojo’s lies but lets him continue since it’s obvious the young boy has a crush on this girl.

I’ll leave you with my two favourite lines from the movie, one from a more tender moment and another simple line of pure comedy.

Elsa: “You’re not a Nazi!”
Jojo: “I’m really into swastikas, so, yeah, I’m a Nazi”
Elsa: “No, you’re a 10 year-old boy who likes wearing silly uniforms and desperately wants to belong to a club.”


Sam Rockwell (in serious mode): “I had an imaginary friend when I as a boy. But he used to wet my bed when I was sleeping and get me in trouble for it.”