Jojo is a lonely German boy who discovers that his single mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend — Adolf Hitler — Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on.
I’m really excited that my first movie review for this site is a film I enjoyed so much. I’ve been planning to start this thing up for a while, but I haven’t found the time. It worked out though, because Taika Waitit’s Jojo Rabbit, the most recent thing I’ve seen, was an absolutely wonderful movie that I’m really pumped about reviewing.
This movie isn’t exactly what I expected it to be, but I’m really glad it took the route that it did. I expected it to be much more overtly funny, but the humor is often subtle and it definitely falls more into the category of dramedy than a pure comedy. Jojo Rabbit has a ton of heart, and somehow almost every character in a film about Nazis makes you fall in love with them. Waititi full-on attacks the absurdity that was the Nazi party with this satirical masterpiece that’ll leave you sometimes laughing out loud, other times holding back tears and all the time fully enjoying the movie you are watching.
What Waititi does better than everything in Jojo Rabbit, including the comedy, is deliver a heartfelt story that shows some awesome character development in a coming-of-age way in the titular Jojo, portrayed by newcomer Roman Griffin Davis. At its base, this movie is all about the relationships that Jojo forms with every other character in the film, which obviously includes a fictional relationship with an imaginary Adolf Hitler, played by Waititi himself.
The relationship that really steals the show is that between Jojo and Elsa, the Jewish girl that Jojo’s mother is harboring in the walls of their home. Elsa, portrayed by Thomasin McKenzie, befriends Jojo and his blind nationalism for the Nazi party. As Jojo and Elsa become closer, Jojo begins to question the things that he had always been taught, and he begins to see the value of Elsa as more than just a Jew.
As the relationship between Elsa and Jojo progresses, Jojo’s respect and admiration for his imaginary Hitler diminishes. Anytime Jojo and Elsa grow closer, Jojo begins to care less and less about what the ridiculous Hitler thinks. This shift in Jojo’s nationalism and view on life comes to a great culmination at the end of the movie, when he finally banishes his imaginary Hitler forever.
While Davis and McKenzie do steal the screen for most of this movie, the performance of Scarlett Johansson as Jojo’s mother, Rosie, shouldn’t be overlooked. Rosie is a sweet, nurturing presence, who provides a logical point of view in a movie where everyone else seems to be over-the-top Nazi. Rosie is a kind, warming presence for both Jojo and Elsa, and she brings out a lot of the heart in the movie.
While the drama and intensity of Nazi Germany and World War II end up taking over this movie, Waititi does deliver some absolutely hilarious moments as he always does. His portrayal of Hitler, and the absurdity of Hitler, is a really funny addition to this movie. Waititi’s mannerisms and voice make a complete mockery of Hitler, as one of the worst people to ever live is satirized brilliantly in this movie.
The laughs don’t end with the Hitler character. Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen and Rebel Wilson play local leaders in the Nazi party, and each of them brings a great level of humor to the screen. It is again ridiculous and absurd humor, but the way they act makes a mockery of the Nazi party just like Waititi’s portrayal of Hitler does. Youngster Archie Yates plays Yorki, maybe Jojo’s only friend outside of his home, and is perhaps the funniest part of the entire movie. Everything Yates does and says is hilarious, and he alone brings the movie up a notch.
The funniest parts of the film are the most over-the-top ones, as Waititi brilliantly shows the stupidity of the Nazi party. There is a moment in the film where Jojo’s home is getting inspected by Nazi leaders, and within maybe 30 seconds the words “Heil Hitler” are spoken at least 20 times. As Germany is on the brink of losing the war, the formality and blind worship of Hitler are fully on display in the funniest way.
This movie really is a great piece of satire. It may not be the funniest thing you will see all year, and certainly won’t be the best, but Waititi delivers a very fun, thought-provoking movie. Not many directors are able to blend humor with deep, impactful themes like Waititi is, and this is just another great entry on the relatively new director’s strong filmography.