JOJO RABBIT – A Review by Cynthia Flores
I believe it’s brilliant to do an anti-hate satirical black comedy using an idiotic childish version of Hitler as a ten-year-old boy’s imaginary best friend in Germany towards the end of WWII. If anything in that first sentence gives you pause then please, sit down and open your mind to the possibility of writer-director Taika Waititi being gifted enough to pull it off. You must remember after all that he is the creative talent that gave us the now cult and box office 2014 hit What We Do In The Shadows. That film was about a group of vampire roommates just trying to exist in modern-day life. For you more mainstream filmgoers he also gave us the mega 2017 hit Thor: Ragnarok, so he’s proven he can masterfully make great independent or mainstream films.
In this new film, he tells the story of Jojo Rabbit. That is the hated nickname of Johannes Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) the very patriotic ten-year-old boy that along with his chubby best friend Yorki (Archie Yates) are both excited to start attending a Hitler youth training camp in the woods. It’s begrudgingly run by the oafish Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell) and his loving second-in-command Finkel (Alfie Allen). Along with an over-the-top determined and brutish female instructor Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson). They are tasked with getting the young boys ready to join the Fuhrer‘s Army and help win the war. Sound funny yet? Well, it is when after being teased by the older boys and given a pep talk from his imaginary Hitler, Jojo almost kills himself. He throws a grenade without permission to prove he is brave. It ricochets and explodes at his feet. He lives but is scarred on his face and now has a slight limp. He’s forced to recoup at home with his loving mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) to care for him. His father is away fighting in the war so it’s just the two of them, or so he believes.
One day Jojo hears a noise in his dead sister Inga’s bedroom. Upon investigation, Jojo finds a hidden space where Elsa Korr (Thomasin McKenzie) is hiding. She’s a Jewish girl that was once friends with his late sister. Jojo doesn’t know what to do about this intruder. As a good Nazi, he should turn her in. Except if he does his mother will be arrested for helping her in the first place. He has not personally known any Jews so he decides to keep quiet about her as long as she tells him all the secrets of being Jewish so he can write a book about it. Both do not tell Rosie that they have met, it’s now their secret.
Once Jojo recuperates, Rosie takes him to Klenzendorf, who has been demoted after the Jojo incident. She asks him to put Jojo to work so he’ll feel included despite being unable to serve due to his injuries. Jojo is stuck with grunt work like spreading propaganda leaflets throughout the town. Now, the best part of his days when he is not with his mother is hanging out with Elsa and working on his book. Jojo is falling in love with Elsa.
I won’t tell you anything more because I want you to go see this movie and understand why you walk away from this film wanting to be a better person. Also, even though this is a comedy there are dramatic parts that make even the most cynical moviegoer tear up. Taika is at his best when he returns to his bittersweet indie roots. His talent for storytelling and using humor to shine a light on humanity is evident in his tackling of Nazis indoctrination of young people. Something that historically happened in WWII. The fact that he can find the humor of a fading Nazi regime instilling hate in their youth is akin to the humor in the 1965 movie and later television show Hogan’s Heroes.
Jojo Rabbit starts off hilariously but I’ll admit it takes a moment to settle in and allow yourself to laugh at this side of the German war. This film also shows that there were quite a few German citizens that, as Rosie says in the film, “Did what they could” to buck the status quo of hatred their government at the time demanded.
Jojo Rabbit is one of the best films of the year. I give it a solid A+ rating and hope that you will give it a chance to impress you as well.
Directed by Taika Waititi
Written by Taika Waititi from a novel by Christine Leunens
Selig Rating A+
Running Time 1hr 48min
Limited to Wide Release November 1st Angelis Film Center & Cafe Dallas, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Lake Highlands, AMC NorthPark 15, Cinemark West Plano and XD
Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.