Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johnasson
Directed by: Taika Waititi (“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”)
Written by: Taika Waititi (“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”)
In these perilous times when hatred and white supremacy have emerged as a prominent, dangerous voice in the United States, it could be seen as a dicey prospect to create a satire heavily involving the presence of Nazis and Adolf Hitler. Leave it to comedic mastermind Taika Waititi to expertly skewer hatred the most successful of ways.
In the midst of World War II, young outcast Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) fully absorbs Nazi propaganda, wanting to be a good soldier. When he discovers that his mom Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their walls, Jojo must decide whether he will help the new discovery, or give into the advice given by his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi).
Throughout his filmmaking career thus far, Waititi has established himself as a unique and special comedic voice. Even when taking control of a Marvel film, Waititi’s blend of clever witticisms and dumb silliness is unmistakable and unlike anyone else working in comedy today. With his latest output like “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and now “Jojo Rabbit,” however, each gut busting moment is matched beat for beat with a surprising level of emotionality. Though it may not get its hands completely dirty, there’s no doubt that there’s a level of respect attached to the film, where Waititi’s acknowledges the atrocities while making it okay to laugh at the more ridiculous parts of both blind hatred and loyalty.
As an actor, Waititi chooses to play Hitler as a complete boob and with a sense of idocy that leaves no room for interpretation other than to laugh at his expense. While the cast is littered with strong, funny performances from veteran actors like Johansson and Sam Rockwell, the show truly belongs to the youngsters Davis and McKenzie. Davis plays Jojo with a level of sweetness and conflict beyond his years and watching McKenzie make a meal out of mentally torturing Jojo is a delight to watch.
As a complete master class of tone, “Jojo Rabbit” is an expertly crafted satire that is equal parts funny and sweet. Though its through the eyes of a child and set in the 1940s, the commentary on blindly and ignorantly hating that which is different is a theme that, unfortunately, remains relevant. There’s likely to be audiences that believe the film should go harder at its subject matter, but fans of Waititi’s special sense of humor and audiences who are willing to go along for the ride are in for a treat. Make no mistake, “Jojo Rabbit” is the work of a singular filmmaker at the top of his game and one of the years best films thus far.