“A World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy named Jojo whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.” Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures (The description from the IMDB website.) **No Spoilers**
I was hesitant to see JoJo Rabbit due to the premise, even though it’s satire, because I was unsure how a movie with Hitler could be funny. I felt like laughing at the horrible things done to the Jewish people would not only be in poor taste but what would it say about myself as a person, in general? Well, I’m happy my awkwardness didn’t stop me from seeing this film. It’s brilliant. Right away I was disarmed by the relationship between JoJo, played by Roman Griffin Davis, and Adolf –JoJo’s imaginary friend–played by the film’s director, Taika Waititi. JoJo is a Nazi fanatic who dreams of becoming the right hand man to Hitler. He goes to a Hitler Youth Camp run by Captain Klenzendorf, played by Sam Rockwell, for war and battle training. An unfortunate incident occurs causing JoJo to help the cause from the sidelines. Because of this, he accidentally discovers Elsa, a Jewish girl, played by Thomasin Mackenzie, his mother Rosie, played by Scarlett Johansson, has been hiding in the attic. JoJo doesn’t want any trouble for the parties involved and eventually the two become friends. Archie Yates plays Yorki, JoJo’s best friend and sweetest little guy EVER. Rebel Wilson plays Fraulein Rahm as a Hitler Youth Camp Trainer. Alfie Allen plays Finkel, Captain K’s right hand man.
While it is satire, it stays just above camp. It felt like the perfect sarcastic version of what a young boy with this imagination may have experienced which is what made it so funny. Yet, the scenes with JoJo and his mother or Elsa were so sweet, harsh at times, and poignant. JoJo’s mother says “They did what they could.” This moment would make a full circle. As quite a few moments in this film do. Taika Waititi does an amazing job fore-shadowing with dialogue and images bringing them back around for the payoff. While some are humorous, others not so much. There is a lot for JoJo to learn about himself, others, and his place in the world in this coming of age story. As I watched, I appreciated how each character came to know themselves a little better and grow as humans. Even Hitler. This film pokes fun at the thought process of the Nazi’s in a way which demonstrates their commitment to the ridiculousness propaganda against Jews with a straight man approach. The situations and material land so effortlessly, it has to be a joke. While the harsher situations are presented carefully to preserve the weight of what’s happened to be fully appreciated. Pretty sure Taika Waititi is the only film-maker who could’ve pulled this off. I’m glad he did.
In theaters and currently playing at Darkside Cinema. Click HERE for tickets and showtimes. Available on DVD and Netflix February 25, 2020. Watch the trailer below: