Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson
Director: Taika Waititi
2019 created a lot of sentences that we’ve never heard before, but I never thought that one of them would be, “did you see that funny Hitler movie?” It takes an immense amount of talent to take a scenario where millions of people lost their lives and make it funny, but Waititi nailed exactly what he was looking to get out of this movie. Whether this is due to the performances from a stacked ensemble cast or a script that has as much of a heartfelt message as it does moments of comedy, Jojo Rabbit tackles difficult issues in a satirical way that will move those who understand it and entertain those who don’t.
The film follows Johannes “Jojo Rabbit” Betzler (Davis), a young boy in the Hitler Youth who is infatuated with being a Nazi and even has an imaginary friend version of Hitler (Waititi). When Jojo discovers that his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding Elsa Korr (McKenzie), a Jewish girl, in their house, he must come to terms with his situation and figure out if being a Nazi is worth sacrificing his family or if their ideology is truly right for him. The thing that really makes Jojo Rabbit work is the combination in tone from scene to scene. While some scenes are thoughtful and reflective, others are hilarious due to their generally dry and sarcastic humor. This allows anyone to enjoy a portion of the movie regardless of how appalled or enamored they are with Nazism. Outside of the general themes of the movie, this cast works together to deliver one of the best ensemble performances of the year. Whether these are the younger actors like Davis and McKenzie or more critically-acclaimed actors like Waitit, Johansson, or Sam Rockwell, Jojo Rabbit gets the absolute most out of its actors for all of its 108 minute runtime. While some people may criticize the movie for showing Nazis in a non-universally evil manner, but I think this is a more accurate depiction of humans as a whole. Nobody is born with hate in their heart, and over time we are indoctrinated to feel prejudice by the people we’re surrounded by. A young boy like Jojo has no real concept to the amount of damage that Nazis can do and as events begin to unfold, his natural human conscience comes into play and helps dictate his livelihood. That’s the most important thing to take away from this movie. If we look at everyone as exclusively good or evil, we miss the middle ground that makes us truly human. Good people can be corrupted by fear, hatred, and anxiety, and bad people can see the error of their ways and be brought back, but only if they don’t have those negative feelings anymore. I applaud Waititi for tackling this difficult subject matter in the way that he did and I believe that audiences everywhere will be better off and more understanding of the world after watching Jojo Rabbit. If all else, there’s a special comedic element to the film that will at the very least keep you content, so Jojo Rabbit is as entertaining as it is insightful.
Overall, this is a huge undertaking by tackling such a dark subject matter in a very unique way, but it’s incredibly effective at humanizing everyone involved while still leaving Hitler as the idiotic influencer that he was. It’s not exactly a topic that everyone is going out of their way to showcase, but to effectively satirize Nazism in the way that Waititi has done here has shown us the wide array of talent he has as both a director and an actor and I look forward to seeing what he does in the future.
Overall Score: 8.5/10