Nazis… well, they’re bad guys. We know this. We don’t have to argue this point. Meanwhile, Taika Waititi is sheer and unadulterated delight. This is not a question either. Now, Taika Waititi making a movie about Nazis? Wait, what? Well, here’s everything you need to know about Jojo Rabbit.
Jojo Rabbit follows the titular Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) a young boy swallowed up in the chaos of WWII era Nazi Germany and everything that implies. With all of that he’s still just a young boy with an imaginary friend… who just so happens to be Adolph Hitler (Waititi). Jojo’s life is complicated further when he finds a young Jewish girl hiding in his attic. Thomasin Mackenzie and Scarlett Johansson costar. Taika Waititi directs the film from his own script.
In Jojo Rabbit, Waititi crafts a sophisticated tone in the political satire. Waititi demonstrated his well honed comedic chops after putting them on full display in his earlier films like Thor: Ragnarok. However, his voice as a writer is more complicated than the Marvel movies would imply. Jojo Rabbit is an absolute delight in terms of the comedy, with each of the performers carrying a great deal of the comedic weight on their shoulders.
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At the same time, there is also a definite heart to Waititi’s writing. For a lack of a better term, his films are fully and completely human. In everything he does, he creates characters who are more than mere facades crafted to simply serve as the butt of a joke. Everyone from Jojo to the gruff Nazi Captain Klenzendorf — yet another lovable racist role for Sam Rockwell— shine through with tremendous humanity and fragility.
There’s a depth to these characters, quite the accomplishment considering the decidedly complicated subject matter. For every little boy idolizing Hitler, there’s a struggling resistance fighter or a closeted Nazi officer forced to hide within the ranks of the Third Reich. It would be so easy to craft a zany and superficial Nazi comedy (this has been done before), but Waititi adds a new layer to the story thanks to his strikingly real characters.
Meanwhile, the performances in the film are well structured and absolutely thrive under Waititi’s writing. Child stars fill a thankless role in Hollywood, but Davis proves to be a complete treasure. Like Jack Dylan Grazer’s standout role in It, the young actor practically leaps off the screen with a performance which is all at once funny, entertaining and heartfelt. Jojo could be a challenging and potentially problematic character in the wrong hands, but as the action plays out on screen, you can’t help but feel for the tremendous growth the young boy is forced to undergo over the relatively short period of the story. Love should also be given to Archie Yates, who crafts a star making role as Yorki. Keep an eye out for this talented youngster in the future.
The narrative is set in WWII era Germany, establishing an entirely new set of complications for the story. From the opening sequence, it is clear that Waititi views these events through a scrutinizing eye. All at once, not only does he seem to be criticizing the Nazi’s, but we’re under the microscope as well. The editing construction of the opening credits The sequence is set to a German language cover of The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ playing over Nazi era footage of the hysteria surrounding Hitler. It’s funny and feels zany in the moment; however, it feels oddly poignant —and timeless—even in today’s political climate. While it is a period piece, Jojo Rabbit is at the same time, a timeless story.
Yes, this is a boring review. An ongoing list of positives only can be so entertaining. However, truth being told, as of this moment, Jojo Rabbit is my new #1 movie of 2019. This story is absolutely beautiful and poignant, while still managing to be quite funny. Juggling such varying emotions can sometimes be a struggle, but Taika Waititi is always up to the challenge (and this is why we love him). This is yet another brilliant work from the still young filmmaker and here’s to seeing where he goes from here.
Jojo Rabbit opens Friday in theaters around the country.