Spoilers would rather join a gym.
I’m going to start by spoiling my own review. I loved this movie. We’ll talk hits and misses after this paragraph that always goes out with the post so that people won’t be spoiled. I think you should know Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit is not Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, not in the least. Jojo is a completely different and rather harder to catch rabbit. That being said, there’s some people who’ll love it and some that might not appreciate its tongue and cheek humour as being too on-the-nose.
Jojo Rabbit was directed by Taita Waititi who also wrote the screenplay based on Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies. The movie follows young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) as he attends a Hitler Youth training camp. He’s also able to interact with a infantilized imaginary version of Adolf Hitler (Taita Waititi). Everything seems to be going amazingly until he runs into his worst nightmare.
The movie has sparked a debate as to what is satire and what isn’t. This “Adolf” seems taken right out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Rather than satire, I think this is a clear case of an unreliable narrator. As happy and content it seems like Jojo is, the mentality that he’s trying to emulate makes little sense even when seen through a kid’s eyes. He follows along, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t want to kill or harm a living thing. He’s literally dressing up and putting on a show.
I think there is satire in the film, and that it is produced organically. By presenting propaganda in kids’ terms we can see how irrational it really is. The concept is not airtight. Jojo’s mother, Rose (Scarlett Johanssen is an embodiment of the crazy pixie girl trope in maternal form. She is endearing, but you wonder how exactly she allowed Jojo to join the Hitler Youth. Oh, and you have to see Stephen Merchant play an agent of the Gestapo, he seems like he just stepped off the set of an Indiana Jones movie.
Overall, it’s Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo and later on, Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa, who give the movie its charm. Now, obviously Jojo is not aware of all the ramifications of nazi ideology until he’s faced with a real world example, so this is not about creating empathy on hate. This is just Jojo learning right from wrong and leaving behind illusions and delusions. It’s not flawless by any stretch of the imagination. However, it does apply humour and ridicule in large doses. To quote Mel Brooks, “by using the medium of comedy, we can try to rob Hitler of his posthumous power and myths.”
Highly recommended as a humorous, ridiculous and occasionally satirical look at the world through a child’s eyes. Jojo turning from the dark side back to the light seems like an easy journey, because he has not stopped being a kid and because he never gave in to being a nasty grownup. For him, playtime and ideals start as being the same thing. It’s only once he learns what those beliefs turn into for other kids that he realizes the need for change.
That will do for now.