Jojo Rabbit Review

Comedic depictions of the Nazi party is surprisingly not a new concept. Whether it be from Charlie Chaplin or Mel Brooks, filmmakers have mocked such horrible figures through depictions intended to make people laugh. Filmmaker and comedian Taika Waititi, himself Jewish, uses such comedy in Jojo Rabbit. Rabbit features Waititi play an ethnically inaccurate Adolf Hitler, an imaginary friend to a Hitler Youth named Jojo. Detailing Jojo learning his mom is hiding a Jewish girl named Isla in their home, Jojo soon befriends Ilsa and discovers the evil of Nazism. This results in a fascinating, if tonally confused dark comedy. While flawed, Jojo Rabbit needs to be seen, as it has some of the boldest content in a movie this year. Of course that content is both good and bad.

Scene from Jojo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi
Image courtesy of Disney/Fox Searchlight

It has its charms, but at what cost?

The one element in Waititi’s screenplay that truly shines is its charm. There’s a real sweetness and warmth through the film, particularly with Jojo’s interactions with his anti-Nazi mother Rosie and Elsa, the Jewish girl Jojo befriends. The dialogue is natural and sweet, and there’s a clear sense of progression in each moment. Waititi has a tight pace in the editing and script that allows these moments to sink in for the viewer. It’s feel-good, but never schmaltzy.

But the feel-good nature has some side effects. The film definitely shows the evil of the Nazis. The goofy comedy, while hit-and-miss, certainly pokes at their incompetence. But it never feels like it’s truly biting or harsh. For a group that is pure evil, the mockery isn’t mean enough. It’s as if Waititi was afraid to really make audiences feel uncomfortable that such horrible people exists. And at a time when neo-Nazism and white supremacy has reared its ugly head, it just makes it ironically uncomfortable.

A shame too, considering how the cast of characters deliver, particularly Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie. They have a great rapport with one another that makes their interactions entertaining. To say nothing of Davis and Scarlett Johannson’s sequences together, bringing an extra layer of warmth to the whole picture.

But it’s because of its mixed qualities and controversial nature that it makes Jojo Rabbit something to see. Its charming nature and solid dramatic moments will definitely charm some and annoy others. In some cases, it could even provoke mixed reactions. But it has a brain, and has something to say. And with Disney having trepidation over the film’s anti-Nazi sentiments, it’s honestly a miracle ambitious, if flawed films like this even exist.

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