It goes without saying that a satire about Nazis and World War II is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. But in saying that Taika Waititi‘s Jojo Rabbit genuinely looked like a bloody solid time at the cinema, so I’m just a tad surprised to see the official reviews are mixed as hell.
Roman Griffin Davis stars in the titular role of Jojo, a lonely German boy whose closest friend is a dumb imaginary Hitler. Imaginary Hitler likes to egg Jojo on and encourage him to burn books, learn his ambush techniques, and blow shit up. But the wee lad’s whole world view is turned upside down when he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. It’s a bit of an awkward situation for the young Hitler Youth who suddenly finds himself torn between blind nationalism and curiosity towards his new roommate.
The film co-stars a slew of familiar names like Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, and Sam Rockwell.
Alright, review time.
The Wrap is extremely aware that on paper Jojo Rabbit just shouldn’t work.
But here’s the thing about the New Zealand director Taika Waititi, whose previous films include “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Thor: Ragnarok”: He knows how to take things that shouldn’t work and make them work.
The Wrap added that Waititi took a “risky premise and delivered a twisted piece of grandly entertaining provocation.”
EW gave the film an overall grade of A-, and praised Waititi for pulling off the “near-impossible.” EW shared pretty much the same thoughts as The Wrap’s, writing that Waititi took a “big, wild swing with Jojo Rabbit – an audacious piece of Third Reich whimsy that almost definitely shouldn’t work as well as it does.”
EW concluded: “Heil Taika for trying, and pulling it off.”
Though IndieWire‘s Eric Kohn was a fan of Davis’ performance as Jojo, he thought the film was a “misconceived charmer.”
“Waititi is out of his league tackling the delicate tradition of anti-Nazi humour,” he wrote.
“Charlie Chaplin mocked Hitler while pitying his ambition, but Jojo lacks the same measured approach.”
Despite a few flashes of tragedy, “Jojo Rabbit” lingers in a charming muddle of good vibes without really confronting their implications.
Variety said that Jojo Rabbit‘s ultimate intent isn’t to make the audience laugh, but to “flatter itself for liking a movie that pretends to be audacious when it’s actually quite tidy and safe.” Oof.
Variety thought it wasn’t a terrible movie, but it wasn’t that funny either. And it definitely lacked depth.
It’s a feel-good movie, all right, but one that uses the fake danger of defanged black comedy to leave us feeling good about the fact that we’re above a feel-good movie.
THR‘s bottom line: “A Holocaust-focused comic crowd-pleaser that won’t please all crowds.”
But it agreed with Variety that the film lacks depth.
… the wrap-up will satisfy. But it doesn’t begin to account for the sort of gullibility-turned-to-eagerness of millions of people to embrace the Nazi cause, and the cartoonishness of it, while amusing at the outset, doesn’t wear well as matters deepen and progress.
Vox rated the film 3.5 stars out of five, describing it as “a little too sprightly to land any heavy punches.”
But in saying that: “Hate can be both worthy of ridicule and deadly serious, and for the most part Jojo Rabbit manages to thread that needle.”
Vox also raises the valid point that “it’s vital to remember that this is a story told through Jojo’s eyes, and for adults to ponder.”
It’s told from the perspective of a boy who doesn’t quite understand what war really is, who Hitler is, what it means to hate a group of people for looking and acting a little different from you.
Well, /Film just frothed the movie. I mean it, they rated it 10/10 and called it “one of the year’s best films” right in its headline. I don’t think I read a single fault in the review.
You wouldn’t think a film that actually features Hitler as a character would be so damn sweet, but Waititi manages to take his message and mould it around a good-natured spirit.
/Film also thought the comedy was great, as was the entire main cast.
You can check out a bunch more reviews, via Rotten Tomatoes, right here.
Jojo Rabbit hits Aussie cinemas this Boxing Day.Image: JoJo Rabbit