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Jojo Rabbit – Movie Review

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Jojo Rabbit – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

Making a comedy about World War II can be a tricky task, especially with the well known atrocities that happened during that period in Europe. There’s a fine line that needs to be drawn. Jojo Rabbit does veer towards being uncomfortable in parts, but that is clearly Taika Waititi’s intention as he wants the audience to be aware of how despicable Nazis are. There is also a stronger message about the impressionable minds of young people and what a dangerous tool propaganda can be. The movie can be funny at times, but Waititi also effectively shows the horrors of what the Nazis were doing.

Jojo Rabbit primarily follows in the tradition of what the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Mel Brooks did several years ago. Waititi mostly portrays the Nazis as buffoons too caught up in their own horrible ideologies and too thick-headed to realise how moronic they sound. The key to disarming the bullies of society is to use humour to show how absurd they really are. Adolf Hitler would despise Jewish comedians like Brooks and Waititi for making him out to be a joke and that makes works like The Producers and Jojo Rabbit even more cathartic. Waititi takes it an extra step further by playing an imagery version of Hitler with the mindset of a temperamental child.

In the beginning of Jojo Rabbit, the film takes on a parody-like tone and it is difficult to watch the scenes of Hitler Youth participating in boy scout activities. The screenplay doesn’t allude to concentration camps, but they are definitely in the back of one’s mind. Waititi makes sure Elsa, the Jewish girl hiding in Jojo’s attic, is the most intelligent character in the movie as she cleverly uses her wits to make fun of this patriotic German boy’s foolish ideas. We’re not necessarily required to like Jojo (he is a Nazi, after all), but the movie does eventually show the importance of talking with one another and not blindly accepting everything we hear.

The strongest parts of Jojo Rabbit come in the second half when the brutality of the Nazis take more center stage. Even in scenes where jokes occur, like a visit from the Gestapo, there is still an element of tension in the air. One scene is especially shocking in showing how ruthless Nazis were and no amount of comedy should hide that fact. The device of having Jojo talk to an imaginary Hitler could have been gimmicky, but even that aspect is properly developed throughout the course of the movie. Waititi never wants to make light of the Holocaust and is the reason why the tone shifts so abruptly. We can laugh at Nazis for their stupidity that caused them to support a ranting madman, but we should never forget the destruction they caused.

Jojo Rabbit starts off like a simple comedy with an absurdist concept, but what makes the entire film click is how Waititi portrays the characters. There’s an important message about the effect of propaganda on the young populace and how anyone can be taken in by extreme ideologies. What we hear Jojo and other Nazis say is ridiculous and yet there’s an unfortunate element of truth that this is really what many believed in Germany. This is a lesson that is still relevant today with too many blindly believing what others tell them with no critical thinking or investigation of their own. The number of people with influential power has only grown and this is especially having an effect on young minds. What Jojo Rabbit is ultimately saying is know who to trust and be your own individual person and that’s a worthy idea.

Stefan Ellison