You would never believe that a movie like ‘Jojo Rabbit’ would ever be made today, let alone become an Academy Award nominee. Its subject matter is portrayed in tasteless form; something that Mel Brooks could make, yet what separates ‘Jojo Rabbit’ from all the offensive satires is its heart to counteract its goofy nature. One moment, we get a parody of one of the most chilling times in WWII history, the next, we get an emotional drama that challenges stereotypes with a tale of an unlikely friendship between a ten-year-old boy training to be a part of Hitler’s army, and a Jewish girl he discovers in his sister’s basement.
Taika Waititi (‘What We Do in the Shadows’, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’) writes, directs, and stars in this adaptation of Christine Leunens’ novel ‘Caging Skies’, though with the buzz surrounding ‘Jojo Rabbit’, you would think that the idea of the movie itself was conjured up by someone who missed the good old days when comedy was parts offensive and socially/politically challenging; something this movie seems to get across. Waititi even goes over-the-top as an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler, who shows up to give young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) advice on what to do when things seem rough. The way Hitler is portrayed in such a goofy fashion is a testament to how silly it takes things, yet when an emotional moment arises, it puts goofy Adolf to the sidelines and lets the drama and tragedy sink in.
While ‘Jojo Rabbit’ delights in the ridiculousness of Nazism (besides Waititi’s Adolf, the two biggest comedic performances come from Sam Rockwell as an army officer and Rebel Wilson as an instructor), and the jokes may not always hit, but the heart comes between Jojo’s dynamic with his loving mother (Scarlett Johansson), and Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), the Jewish girl he finds and ultimately befriends. What ‘Jojo Rabbit’ has to say about the Nazis and their perception of Jewish people is portrayed as silly as the belief itself, yet the commentary itself is enough to make anyone start conversations. I was surprised by the maturity counteracting its childlike naivety as well as touched on an emotional level.
What is great about ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is the way it leaves you feeling different emotions. You will either be offended, die laughing, find it ridiculous, become touched, or cry. Either way, you will find yourself affected by ‘Jojo Rabbit’ in one way or another.