Jojo Rabbit is Taika Waititi’s latest film. After the success of Thor: Ragnarok, he has left the superhero movie space for a while (until the next Thor movie) and has given us a satirical comedy that is jam packed with both humour and more deep and meaningful subject matter. Jojo Rabbit walked a fine line that I did not expect it to walk, all the more reason why I respect this movie greatly and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Jojo Rabbit is about a child named Jojo, living in Nazi Germany during World War II, and in training to be a nazi soldier. When he realizes that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl name Elsa in their home, he calls upon the help and guidance of his imaginary friend, a childish recreation of Adolf Hitler, to try and navigate his mind around this new revelation.
This is a very clever premise. The conflict is real, and the film does a great job portraying and realizing the main character, given his young age and his ideologies, managing to make him likeable, funny and quirky. Delving into the mindset of a 10 year old nazi with such comedic results is no easy task. But through this unique premise, and the concept of Adolf Hitler (with a knockout performance by Taika Waititi himself) serving as this child’s imaginary friend is what drives a lot of the humour and character building.
Performances in this film are impressive, especially Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo and Thomasin McKenzie, who completely steals the show as Elsa. Scarlett Johansson, who plays Jojo’s anti-Nazi mother gives a supporting performance that wouldn’t surprise me if she got an Oscar nomination for. My favourite character would have to be the very childishly portrayed and silly Adolf Hitler who, as I mentioned before, is played by the film’s writer/director Taika Waititi. Nearly every second he’s on screen is a laugh and much of the exchange between him and Jojo is what makes the film so enjoyable.
The film’s direction could make film buffs easily mistaken it for a Wes Anderson movie. A lot of perfectly symmetrical shots, an expansive colour palette and quirky visual style really brings to mind his filmmaking style. It is a good-looking, well shot movie. I don’t know if it will be considered Oscar worthy like Wes Anderson’s direction, but it’s stunning nonetheless.
What surprised me about this film, but in retrospect really should not have, given the fact that it’s a film that takes place in Nazi Germany during World War II, is how despite how funny and comedic the film is, it does not shy away from expressing the real hardships of the era. But it never goes deep to a fault, which would have turned the film into yet another bland World War II biopic-esque film. Instead, there is a fine line between these moments of hardship, and the more comedic moments which take up the majority of the film. Despite its satirical tone, the film can also be seen as one that is also important, as it is about challenging one’s world view and ideologies in favour of kindness.
Jojo Rabbit is a film that took my expectations into question. While I was expecting a flat-out comedy, which for the most part it is, it manages to shift tone drastically at times into something deeper, more meaningful and, at points, more horrific than I expected, even though I really should have expected exactly that. And I think that is what makes this film special. the ability to find humour in such a terrible time, while also realistically portraying the time period is a difficult balance to strike. But it succeeds wholeheartedly.
Film Grade: A