LFF REVIEW – JOJO RABBIT (2019)
Written and Directed by: Taika Waititi
Based on: Caging Skies by Christine Leunens
Produced by: Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi, Chelsea Winstanley
Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen etc.
After watching the astounding Joker (2019) earlier in the day, and having my psyche shook by that descent into hell, I needed something lighter to watch afterwards. A comedy about the Nazis, World War II and Hitler himself, therefore, probably wasn’t the ideal choice. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed Taika Waititi’s furiously funny war satire.
Essentially, JoJo Rabbit (2019), is a rites-of-passage comedy with a heavy dose of pathos, tragedy and combat thrown in. The story concerns JoJo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a young German boy who has a staunch commitment to the Hitler Youth and the Nazi Party. So much so he conjures up a vision of Hitler (Taika Waititi), to act as a kind of spirit guide through his everyday life. Safe to say, Hitler isn’t the best teacher, especially with Waititi’s mischievous and ridiculous representation.
JoJo Rabbit (2019) has a wonderful character arc for the lead protagonist, who benefits from an empathetic performance by sterling young actor, Roman Griffin Davis. JoJo, through his wartime experiences slowly learns the horrors of Nazi propaganda and the real truth about the Jewish people. It’s a heartwarming and touching story which advocates love over hate, even in the face of such dark terror.
While Waititi’s comedic turn as Hitler threatens to plunge the film into tonal chaos, Scarlet Johansson and Thomasin McKenzie ground the film in emotional depth with moving acting portrayals. Sam Rockwell also contributes brilliantly as a German Captain, charged with training JoJo and other Hitler Youth members. Stephen Merchant is also ideally cast as a fastidious Gestapo Officer. The scene where he and his Nazi cohorts search JoJo’s house is one of many memorable scenes throughout the film.
Overall, Jojo Rabbit (2019), takes an incredible risk creating humour out of such tragic events as war and the Holocaust. But, by ridiculing Hitler and the Nazis, there is a sense that Waititi is taking back power through rapid humour. Conversely, the jokes come thick and fast. There are sight gags, physical humour, puns, cartoon violence, illustrations, slapstick and so many zinging one-liners in the irreverent screenplay.
At times it was like ‘Monty Python’s Flying Germans’, such was fast pace, sketchy and surreal nature of the jokes. One could argue that the jokes undermine the more tragic elements of the story. It’s a tough thing to do, to make you laugh AND cry; as the bombs fall and bullets fly. Nevertheless, by the end, Waititi manages to just about retain the balance between parody and pathos.
4 thoughts on “LFF REVIEW – JOJO RABBIT (2019) – SPOILER FREE”
So far every review for both movies you mentioned say “go see ’em” so I will (eventually)
Thanks again. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment so positively 🙂
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I enjoyed reading your review Paul, even though my own reactions are at the opposite end of the spectrum. The film made me cringe NOT because of the risky subject matter; I found the comedic style unfunny and of shallow intelligence. The script is ridiculously inappropriate and the slapstick is corny. I can see clearly what the film hoped to achieve and those goals are laudable; but it is one big misfire for me. I am, however, always happy to read thoughtful analyses like yours.
Thanks for reading my review. It’s great that we can agree to disagree. This is a film I think that gets made because the director got a free shot due to his success with the Marvel hit, Thor. I’m glad he made it and took the risks.
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