Jojo Rabbit is directed by Taika Waititi. It stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell, and Scarlett Johansson.
As World War II rages on and Germany finds itself dwindling in the latter years of the war, Jojo is a young and idealistic Hitler Youth who dreams of an idealistic future in which he’ll play a role shaping the world. In fact, his best friend is an imaginary version of the Fuhrer (albeit quite dimwitted). When he discovers his mother has hidden a young Jewish girl in their house, he finds himself conflicted between whether he should turn her in, or forge a friendship with her. As the war climate continues to turn, with odds not looking too good for the Third Reich, what will he do?
I have no doubt Jojo Rabbit is a movie which will spark controversy due to the nature of its material alone, before people even decide to give it a chance. But make no mistake; this is a movie which is very comedic, and most certainly DOES NOT glorify Nazis and/or Hitler. In fact, the movie often depicts them as bumbling laughingstocks who are blindly idealistic.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’m pleased to say that Jojo Rabbit, directed by Thor Ragnarok director Taiki Waititi (who also appears in the film as the imaginary friend version of Hitler) is absolutely hilarious. Easily one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in 2019, the movie features a young hero going through his own personal struggles and inner conflicts, and a bumbling and incompetently-staffed Nazi party who he blindly worships, only to see the world through a different set of eyes later on. While undoubtedly a comedy, there are a few brilliant dramatic moments as well, some of which handle said material better than a lot of “serious” movies. It does get a bit muddled down and the latter third drags a little too much (it could have been about 10-15 minutes shorter), but it doesn’t change the fact it’s a very funny movie.
The casting deserves definite credit, including Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson as laughably incompetent Nazis who young Jojo idolizes nonetheless, Scarlett Johansson as his mother who doesn’t share her boy’s blind love of the Third Reich, and Thomasin McKenzie as a young Jewish girl who may very well change the way Jojo sees the world. The atmosphere created by these actors keeps the suspense, but it also ensures the laughs never stop. No one is overused, and the movie stays fresh throughout its duration; no small task given the material at hand.
The set designs and looks of the period don’t disappoint either, with the crew brining a dwindling Nazi Germany to life. This most certainly isn’t the Third Reich at its height, and the filmmakers show no expense in proving it to the viewers. Some of the latter moments depict this painfully well yet none of the dramatic and brooding content keeps the level of laughs down for very long.
The only real weakness of the film is it’s weighed down heavily in its third act, dragging on a little longer than needed. That said, in a day and age in which everyone’s offended by everything, it pleases me greatly someone had the guts to make this movie. Easily the best movie lampooning the Nazis since The Producers half a century ago, this one gets a very high recommendation for me, though the easily offended should probably stay home.
Rating: Three-and-a-half out of four stars.
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