Image: Sam Rockwell, Taika Waititi, and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit © Property of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation [Source: IMDB]
A young boy indoctrinated in the Hitler Youth, encounters a major challenge to his ideology. When he discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their home. He must come face to face with her and his beliefs.
Director: Taika Waititi. Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates [12A]
On the premise alone this film goes right at you with the comedy. A little boy who’s imaginary friend is…Hitler. For the beginning part of the film, this is where the majority of the laughs are played, it is funny but it is relatively safe ground and doesn’t do much to bring gut aching hilarity. Thankfully it doesn’t overdo this part too much, only having him show up on occasion to make a clear point and a rather clever one at that. Hitler as the imaginary friend here, although makes for a good laugh is actually a metaphorical personification of the indoctrination of the young boys and girls living under the Nazi Party.
It’s a somewhat self-explanatory point but none the less we see that when times of ideological questioning surface – that is when imaginary Hitler appears. When young Jojo is still very much entrenched in that ideology so thinks that way. Hitler is kind, supportive, reassuring and complimenting. But later when the boy’s indoctrination is being stripped away and actively challenged, Hitler is mean, condescending and belittling – doing all he can to make the boy feel worthless and stupid on his own without the Nazis and without him. This undercurrent of intelligent comments about the youth under the nazis is what really drives this film forward.
Sure, the comedy is there and aside from a rocky beginning where some jokes don’t land as well as they should and other jokes are played far too much into. Even in the music comedy can be found, right from the get-go there is a tongue in cheek moment of I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles playing over lots of ‘Seig Heil’ imagery. Which again is very clever in its delivery, as it speaks to the bridging the divide theme of the film, to hold a hand equalling love and the seig heil being an expression from evil. It is there and makes for a thoroughly entertaining film. But, there is more to the picture than that. There is a strong element of drama and the mixing of the two is done absolutely perfectly. No joke came across out of place and ill of intent and none of the drama feels too heavy detracting from the jovial tone of the narrative.
Waititi knows how to be funny and dramatic all at once while having a completely inventive take on the atmosphere of Nazi Germany. Vibrant and colourful and yet there is a crumbling of paint and plaster going on. His direction is spectacular as comedy and drama tease each other throughout the movie until comedy gives way into the drama and we found ourselves, completely and utterly uplifted by the joy, love and kindness in the atmosphere of its narrative. Waititi layers Jojo Rabbit with sincerity, jovial, sarcastic and grey humour to provide a movie that kickstarted my 2020 with a loving and powerful touch. That reminded me just how wonderful cinema can be.