I have to admit I have been holding off on my review of Jojo Rabbit because I really loved it but it’s a hard film to properly put into words. A side of me wants to just close the review out now and say ‘go see it and decide for yourself!’ But alas, I will make the attempt to write a review of this weird, sweet, funny, crazy little movie.
As you have probably heard, Jojo Rabbit is a dark comedy by acclaimed director Taika Waititi. Some may only know him from his Marvel film Thor Ragnarok but he has done other wonderful films like Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows.
In Jojo Rabbit, Waititi takes his biggest swing by casting himself as an imaginary friend of a little boy during the closing months of World War II. The only catch is this particular imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (a cookie zany version of Hitler as dreamed up by a little boy named Jojo).
I think the reason this frankly bizarre concept works is because it is from the perspective of a child. We are all in many ways the product of our environment so of course he accepts the horrors surrounding him. The goal of the movie is then to help him realize his indoctrination is wrong until we get to a climatic moment where he literally tells Hitler to @#$# off. He is helped along this process by his Mother (lovely performance by Scarlet Johansson), Sam Rockwell as a snarky officer, and a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie who was great in Leave No Trace and is great here), among others.
Jojo Rabbit reminded me a little bit of ‘The Book Thief’ which is my favorite novel. It is also set in Germany during WWII and is narrated by death with a dry, sarcastic look at the misery humans have created. ‘The Book Thief’ is not satire but it has a similar message about what we decide to believe and how we chose to treat other humans.
And that’s the reason why Jojo Rabbit works so well. It can be quite funny but the emotion and heart are equally strong. I cried multiple times. It’s especially poignant because not only are you seeing war and evil but you are seeing it through the mind of a little vulnerable child.
Indeed, Waititi has said he kept the movie PG13 because he wanted to talk to young people. Just like Jojo in the movie he wants them to question what they have been taught and decide for themselves how they want to treat others. He seems to want to catch them when they are young and impressionable and steer them towards kindness and away from hate. That’s a powerful message, which deserves repeating over and over again.
I don’t know if what I have said has convinced you to see Jojo Rabbit but I did my best. It’s such a lovely, moving, funny, different, original film with a fantastic script! Go see it!!!
9 out of 10