How do you make Nazis and Nazism funny? Taika Waititi writes and directs Jojo Rabbit, a comedy-drama based in Germany during the end of the Second World War. It has been nominated for multiple awards at various ceremonies and was selected by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten movies of 2019.
Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a ten-year-old boy who has joined the Hitler Youth at the late stages of World War 2. Caught up in the propaganda, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) himself is his imaginary friend. His mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) does not like his blind allegiance to the Nazis and encourages him to just be a boy. While attending a Hitler Youth camp, he is caught in a hand-grenade explosion after he swipes one from the camp Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). He is sent home and given small tasks by instructor Fräulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson). However, while he is home alone, he hears a noise and soon discovers a Jewish girl named Elsa Korr (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in a secret room. Now, he begins to wonder about the choices he made, much to the chagrin of Hitler.
When telling the story of the tragedy of World War 2, it is difficult to do it with humor. Many have tried, failed, but others have succeeded, such as Charlie Chaplin with The Great Dictator. Waititi did have a tough road to go on. Make light of too much and you risk being accused of making light of atrocities, but too much darkness and the comedy is lost. I have to give him credit, Waititi managed to skirt that line.
Instead of skirting the line with the tragedies of World War 2, Waititi instead focuses on the absurdity of the Nazis, poking fun at their ridiculous notions of race, their asinine traditions, and their revisionist history. That is where the majority of the humor comes from and that is where its sweet spot is. However, towards the climax of the movie, it slaps you in the face with the horrors that Nazism brought upon the world. It is a smooth transition and shows how the Nazis were cruel to the Germans they vowed to care for.
As for the performances, Davis, Johansson, Waititi, Rockwell, and McKenzie all pull out fantastic performances as their respective characters. Every since person pulls out a dynamite performance that is of epic proportions. They all deserve to be applauded for how the roles turned out.
I would like to note that some critics were claiming that he did not understand evil. I disagree. For me, it shows the absurdity of evil ideology, but also the incredible harm it brings on people. Also, a few reviewers claimed it was anti-American in some way. I did not get that sense at all. In fact, without giving away too many spoilers, it went out of its way to praise America.
Bottom line, Jojo Rabbit is a hilarious movie with dynamite performances, an incredible story, and it deserves all of the accolades that are being poured onto it. While it does have a comedic look at Nazism, it does not in any excuse the horrors of the Second World War.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong foul language, Violence
FAVORITE QUOTE: Your mother took me in. She’s kind. She treats me like a person.
Check out the trailer below:
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