I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of the audience in tonight’s screening of JoJo Rabbit. I heard so many people say, “That was such a different kind of movie, but I loved it!” Taika Waititi’s JoJo Rabbit is definitely a different kind of film than your typical mainstream comedies, one where a New Zealander (Waititi himself) plays a goofball imaginary version of Adolf Hitler, Nazi school’s are portrayed in classic slapstick fashion, and the term “Heil Hitler!” is a recurring gag. But JoJo Rabbit is so much more than a spoof comedy on Nazism, it is filled with heart and a beautiful depiction and sometimes heartbreaking theme of love conquers all. This is truly the “anti-hate satire” all the marketing claims it to be.
This film snuck up on me. It took me a few minutes to get into the film, and when I was fully engrossed in the story I didn’t even realize the film had completely taken over me. I think for me, in the beginning, I kept comparing the film to Wes Anderson’s work, and that was my own fault for bringing that prenotion of mine into the film. The visual style, framing, and set designs can be remissive of Anderson’s distinct style, but Waititi’s trademark dialogue and own visual flare quickly reveal themselves. JoJo Rabbit is about a 10-year-old boy, named Jojo, in Hitler’s regime who wants nothing more than to be serving by Hitler’s side. Jojo, after an accident, while resting at home finds a young Jewish girl hiding in their home that was welcomed in by his mother. Oh, and Jojo has an imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler. Taika Waititi has an incredible eye for casting brilliant young unknown actors in his films. Actors such as Julian Dennison in Hunt for the Wilder People and now Roman Griffin Davis. I looked this kid up and he has nothing on his IMDB page listed other than JoJo Rabbit, what a risk to cast this boy as your lead actor. He is in every scene of this film and completely knocks it out of the park. He nails all of the comedic moments and is so endearing and sweet in the dramatic ones. Honestly, I’m blown away with this kid’s talent to lead his own film and the incredible leadership he must be under from Waititi. Thomasin McKenzie plays the young Jewish girl hiding in Jojo’s home. Her delicate performance adds an extra punch to the satire, her character perfectly contrasts the comedic aspect of the film, adding another layer to the depth of the film.
It’s a little weird to hear jokes like this being made about Nazism. It is a bit of a jarring encounter if you are not prepared for what kind of a film JoJo Rabbit is. From the first moment on screen, jokes are being made about a little boy’s fascination and blind love for Hitler. I can see it being a little weird for some moviegoers seeing Adolf Hitler portrayed as a complete goofball and joke. I was ready for it and loved everything about Waititi’s performance as Adolf, but if you aren’t ready for it, JoJo Rabbit will quickly have you belly laughing over the seemingly lighthearted humour. I love that we can have a film that can have us laugh about such a serious and tragic part of our history. I think it is not only acceptable but completely necessary to make fun of hatred while never forgetting or disrespecting those who lost their lives due to this hatred or those who fought to abolish it.
I had no idea Taika Waititi had this in him. I’ve been very excited for this film for a very long time now and have been a big fan of Waititi’s work ever since I saw What We Do in the Shadows for the first time. I had expected his trademark humour and goofy characters which were all present in JoJo Rabbit, but I never expected this movie to penetrate my heart like this. I was in tears in several moments throughout the film. My heart broke for Jojo, I completely fell in love with this character and the journey he, unfortunately, has to go through to learn the effects hate has over people. This is an emotionally rich film, you will laugh and cry and your spirits will be lifted by the end. JoJo Rabbit’s message is pure and timely, hate is never the answer, plain and simple. There should never be any grey areas around it. This is a universal message that should be heard by everyone. JoJo Rabbit so beautifully depicts this theme with simple visual imagery such as tying a shoelace or through a complex script that elegantly foreshadows key moments that later reveal themselves in gut-punching ways.
Jojo Rabbit is a movie for everyone. I loved that Taika Waititi went with a PG-13 rating (PG Canadian Rating) so that more people, including younger people, can see this film. This is a great movie with a unique premise, a film not like many others out there that is still somehow accessible to so many different kinds of people with a message I believe is perfect for a younger person to hear, or anyone for that matter. You will fall in love with Jojo and the journey the film takes you on. You will be hard-pressed to find a film as emotionally rich in 2019 as JoJo Rabbit is.