From the opening titles, you think you know what you’re in for with Jojo Rabbit, the latest comedy from everyone’s favourite Kiwi comedy director Taika Waititi. The film opens with the searchlight logo mixed with German-sounding instruments. After a brief introduction, we are whisked into his lighter take on Nazi Germany. Set towards the end of the war, where he compares the admiration of Hitler to an almost Beatlemania kind of fanaggeodon from the 1960s while a German version of ‘I wanna hold your hand’ blasts through the speakers.
It’s funny, and a tad shocking depending on who you talk to. That kind of atmosphere follows the film throughout its run-time. Always amusing first and then hits you with some light shock from real-world circumstance to pull the rug from under you, which is highly effective.
The film follows JoJo, a young boy who is obsessed with all things Hitler and Nazi, through no fault of his own as he is simply a product of the environment, he grew up in. He attends Hitler Youth outings and looks up to the nutcase so much that he appears as his imaginary friend. What better choice than the wholesome, Jewish, nutcase, Taika Waititi to play the evil, Jewish-hating, nutcase, Adolf Hitler?
There is no other choice when you think about it, forget all the faithful to life stuff. He brings the laughs, gets JoJo pumped and tries to be the all-round star of the show, in true Hitler fashion. The perfect choice for an anti-hate satire about Nazi Germany when you sit and think about it.
It’s hard not to feel sorry for JoJo though when that kind of propaganda is all he is bombarded with from an early age. That’s what’s at the bottom of the film, the corruption of children. They take the stage here and it is clear to see the effect the regime is having on them. Those who are the higher-ups bully those who are different. Wait a minute…
JoJo’s world is turned upside down when he discovers his mother is hiding a jew in the attic. The rest of the film is a question of his Nazi faith where he begins to rethink the ideas he has placed in front of him. Waititi’s fingerprints are all over this in its sensibility. It feels unconventional and indie but full of the heart and laughs you’d expect from the guy that gave us ‘Boy’ and ‘Hunt For The Wilderpeople’. The light-hearted humour of Taika Waititi is woven into the film with a hilariously-heart-warming style.
It is interesting to me that this hasn’t been playing as well as I thought it would. When it was announced for the festival circuit, I assumed that we’d be in a situation with the film getting unanimous praise and maybe the odd Oscar nomination. Despite being certified fresh now, it launched as rotten on Rotten Tomatoes, the internet’s least favourite review compiling site. With many critics taking issue with tone balancing which I felt wasn’t an issue and the lack of laughs, also not an issue for me. Now we’re down to a “maybe this will make a little bit of money” situation. I do think a general audience will enjoy it and I hope more give it a chance.
Ultimately, it comes down to what you want to take away from the movie and how a lot of it sits with you. Personally, the comedy, emotion and controversy all blend perfectly to create something that is uniquely Taika while also hitting the right notes with the messages and drama. You boil it down, and Jojo Rabbit is a film about acceptance and love, it shines a light on the atrocities committed in a heart-breaking way. While the also manages to be digestible for general audience members which is something I find highly commendable.
You’ll have to wait until January 3rd to catch Jojo Rabbit in UK Cinemas!