The tale of a young Nazi youth and his fantasies about joining Hitler’s regime as his right hand man sounds like more of a horror story than a comedy, but with Taika Waititi behind the wheel this absurd satire the laughs and the lessons come in full strides.
Based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, this film follows ten year old Jojo “Rabbit” Betzler — a Nazi youth recruited near the end of World War II. He’s a Hitler fanatic, dreaming of one day standing beside him at the top of the ranks in the Third Reich (so much so that he creates a fictionalized version of Hitler in his mind that he communicates with). But Jojo’s devotion is playfully misguided and blissfully ignorant — he idolizes the Hitler from the propaganda posters, the symbol of a strong Germany, and he truly believes the Jewish people are something inhuman and monstrous. His world is turned upside down when he discovers his mother (played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
While the core themes of the film may not be the most original, the delivery certainly is. Of course, Nazi satire is not a new concept, but never before has it been done with such simultaneously shocking and silly innocence. The film is quick to let you know what it’s going to be — the very first scene consists of a small child and Taika Waititi playing Adolf Hitler exchanging an escalating “Heil Hitler!” shouting match. Some have said that the style doesn’t hold up for the movie’s runtime, but personally I found myself engrossed and thoroughly entertained throughout the film.
Despite its playfulness, though, Jojo Rabbit still has many emotional moments that pack a punch. It’s not the most profound thing in the world, but it gets its message across and I enjoyed the journey.
What really made this film for me was its impressive cast. The child actors are brilliant, and I was more than happy to spend two hours inside little Jojo’s head. Along with Waititi and Johansson are Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, Rebel Wilson, and Stephen Merchant. I felt that all of their performances really elevated the film and gave the whole project some street cred.
Overall, I found this film to be a simple yet enjoyable flick. It’s creative, inventive, and memorable, and in an endless world of sequels and remakes, it was a breath of fresh air.
Jojo Rabbit is in theaters now.