Friday, November 1, 2019

Jojo Rabbit

An irreverent comedy centered around a Nazi 10 year-old (Roman Griffin Davis) whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler isn't going to appeal to everyone. Writer/director Taika Waititi (who also stars as the Fuhrer) crafts an odd little film about a devout, although not very good, Nazi who completely believes in the propaganda he's been fed since birth about Jews and the military dominance of the father land despite those around him seeing the writing on the wall that the end of the war is vast approaching.

Waititi, who adapted the story from Christine Leunens' novel Caging Skies, gets the most out of his young star while surrounding him with an impressive supporting cast who understand the vibe the director is going for in the film. Scarlett Johansson is terrific as JoJo's mother who is hiding more than a few secrets from her young Nazi son. Sam Rockwell, as a demoted Nazi officer now forced to work with children, sets the tone of the film early on in his presentation to a Hitler Youth training camp. Jojo's misadventures at the camp do nothing to make him question his belief in the Nazi Party but meeting a girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) leads to several questions.

From the beginning, Waititi's message in the film is to not take anything you see too seriously. This works to allow the comedy to flourish throughout the film (even when the war hits the city), but, if there is a negative to Waititi's choices, it's that when the script calls for the audience to take events seriously it lacks the emotional resonance that it has so gleeful refused to cultivate over its running time. One of the problems with not taking anything seriously (like a 10 year-old running around the woods with a live grenade) is that you don't take anything seriously (even death and loss on either a personal or genocidal scale). Even if the strong emotional moments can't have the effect they should, there's still quite a bit to enjoy here in the satiric look at what happens when you raise your son to be a Nazi (and allow him to romp around with an imaginary Adolf Hitler as a best-friend).

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