From the first frame, Waititi builds an aesthetic that is The Great Dictator meets Moonrise Kingdom. The director of Thor: Ragnarok, goes back to his independent film and comedy roots, which he showed off in 2016's delightful Hunt For the Wilderpeople. The setting for this one is a small town in Germany and our main character is a young boy named Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis). He has an energetic, youthful spirit, naive to what's going on around him, and he has an imaginary friend in the form of a doofusy, cigarette smoking Adolph Hitler (Waititi). With his father out of the picture, fighting in the war, Jojo finds comfort from his darling mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). Jojo is excited to be attending a little nazi training camp, learning to kill, under the instruction of drunk Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). But Jojo does not know himself yet, he thinks he could kill, but the boy is not a killer, in fact, he's actually quite kind. And when Jojo finds that his mother has been helping to hide a Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in the walls, all of that hateful nazi teaching starts to reveal what it truly is; ugly and unneeded hate.
A question about Jojo Rabbit in today's current climate, is could it be funny, in what some would claim “a PC world”? I think that depends on the individual, especially because comedy has been butchered since 2016. It's dead. Conservative's are constantly offended by SNL, punching down is the only thing that is funny (“What? When the president made fun of that disabled man he was joking”), and badly sucking at delivering jokes on top of it all (example- see Mike Huckabee's twitter account). Jojo Rabbit is undoubtedly funny. Waititi plays his Hitler as neither a genius nor a threat, while that joke wears off midway through, the script, which is written by Waititi from Christine Leunens book, allows the heart and spirit of the cast to rise to the top. Young Roman Griffin Davis is a witty delight and McKenzie might be the best young talent working today; And then there is the amazing Archie Yates, an actor that almost walks away with the picture as Jojo's bespectacled friend Yorki. Even when Waititi's script becomes predictable, it is the youthful energy, an original story to tell, and impeccable sets & costumes that make it a success. Jojo Rabbit is the kind of movie that deserves praise for taking the risk.
The ending of Jojo Rabbit is where it finds a predictable footing, but along the way I was happy with the final result. Some might say that this is 2019's Green Book, which is an extreme insult to Jojo Rabbit, in my opinion. Taika Waititi has the genius and the skill to make a movie like this work. It might not be better than satires about nazi's made by Chaplin or the work of Mel Brooks, but it's impressive to see a director still trying. Jojo Rabbit is a reminder that laughter can defeat anger. Humor can raise us up during our times of misery. I don't think comedy is coming back anytime soon, but it's nice to laugh, even if it only lasts for a brief moment. You go Jojo Rabbit! I'll be rooting for you.
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: JOJO RABBIT
STARRING: ROMAN GRIFFIN DAVIS; SCARLETT JOHANSSON; TAIKA WAITITI; THOMASIN MCKENZIE
DIRECTED BY: TAIKA WAITITI
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Fans of historic cinema will know that a movie as abrasive as Jojo Rabbit is not the first of its kind. The easy comparison that critics will reference (including yours truly) is Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. In 1940, making a comedy that poked fun at a mad world leader was an incredible risk, with Chaplin sporting a strip mustache, bouncing a globe on his butt, and dancing to light music to make a mockery of Adolf Hitler. Sure, it was comedy, and is still to this day one of Chaplin's greatest work, but it was also starring directly into the eyes of fascism, daring audiences to not laugh. The stakes were higher during WWII. That's not to say that things are all roses today, our current state of affairs conjure up an idea such as this, along with an inventive mind of Taika Waititi, and that's what makes Jojo Rabbit one of the best comedies of the year. Don't get me wrong, comedy is still dead, I truly believe that, but Jojo Rabbit at least has a nice message, and reminded me what it was like to laugh again.