For this review, I’m going to do things a bit differently. Normally, I only look at films that are recent, but the one I’m covering is one that unjustly fell under the radar. It’s a PG-13 rated comedy that I desperately wanted to see and review for a while, and now, I’m making up for lost time and giving this film it’s just due. So, let’s take a look at “Jojo Rabbit.”
The film takes place in Nazi Germany in the year 1945. Johannes ‘Jojo’ Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a ten-year-old German boy devoted to the ideals of the Nazi Party and follows without a second thought. Under the care of his widowed mother (Scarlett Johansson), and the aid of his supportive but buffoonish imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo is ready to support his country any way he can, even if he’s only ten and lacks any talent. However, Jojo’s world and ideals are challenged when he learns his mother has been hiding a teenage Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home. The film also stars Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson.
In recent years, I’ve felt that comedy films have begun to devolve in quality. These days, it feels like anyone can make a comedy, regardless of creativity or originality. So long as it has some big–name attached to it, or just a comedian, it’ll get released. However, trying to do a comedy about Nazis is something even the most underhanded director would shy away from. Also, I’m aware that a lot of things I summarized in the previous plot synopsis might sound outlandish, ludicrous, and even a bit distasteful to some readers out there, but on the whole, it all culminates into one of the most creative comedy movies I’ve seen in a long while.
“Jojo Rabbit” is not the first story to poke fun at the Nazis’ expense. Does anyone out there remember “Hogan’s Heroes,” a show made back in the 60s? What about comedy legends like Mel Brooks and Monty Python? They had loads of skits that cracked jokes at the Nazis. Even today, renowned director Quentin Tarantino continues the trend. While his stories blur the line between serious and humorous, there’s no denying the quality entertainment in his movies like “Inglourious Basterds” or “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” films that featured Adolf Hitler and the Mason Family, some of the most despicable human beings in history.
Getting back to “Jojo Rabbit,” the film was adapted from the book “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens, and was written and directed by Taika Waititi, who also plays the role of Adolf Hitler. For some readers out there who might not know, Taika Waititi was the same director who created one of Marvel’s best and possibly funniest entrees, “Thor: Ragnarok,” and he’ll also be returning to write and direct the 2021 sequel, “Thor: Love and Thunder.” So, the man definitely has experience with directing a comedy, and it shows throughout “Jojo Rabbit.”
The film knows how to do a joke without going too far or making it last too long. It’s a satire that jokes about the ludicrous outlooks the Nazis had of themselves, the outside world, and the Jewish people. Here’s the thing, however. The humor serves the purpose of the story and developing plot, especially for our protagonist Jojo. As I explained in the plot synopsis, even though he’s ten, Jojo is devoted to his country and its politics, so much so, that he’s fabricated an imaginary friend out of his idol, Adolf Hitler, one who’s far removed from the real one and just serves as an example of Jojo’s outlandish and skewed beliefs. So, when his beliefs are challenged, his once perfect world soon deteriorates as the Nazis begin to lose the war.
That’s another thing that I love about this movie—its story and structure. The film presents us with a childlike view of the Axis Power, in a way I’ve not seen since the 2008 film “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” an absolutely beautiful but heartbreaking story. Despite being a strong supporter of the Nazi Party, Jojo never comes off as unlikeable, just a child who’s ignorant of the madness around him and wants to fit in. While it knows how to make a joke, the story is aware of the subject material, and it does not shy away from hitting its audience with it. “Jojo Rabbit” is a movie that can be humorous, sweet, heartwarming, and then just gut–punch you with a moment of tragedy and heartbreak that’ll leave you silent.
As for the actors, there’s just too much to talk about as everyone does a phenomenal job. Every character has numerous moments that nearly steals the show, making the movie all the more enjoyable. Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie were adorable in their separate roles as they interacted together, Sam Rockwell and Taika Waititi somehow found a way to even make Nazi’s funny, and Scarlett Johansson surprised me as I feel this movie really gave her the chance to show her acting range—it’s no wonder she was nominated for an Oscar. There are more actors and characters I wish I could credit, but then I’d be dragging this review for too long.
The final piece I need to address before we conclude is the nominations the film garnered from the 92nd Academy Awards of 2020. “Jojo Rabbit” was nominated for over six Oscars, but only walked away with the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Personal views regarding the Oscars notwithstanding, I want readers to take a moment to consider this revelation. “Jojo Rabbit” is a comedy film that made it to the Oscars. When was the last time a comedy was even considered for an Oscar Nomination? Not a Pixar or Marvel film, an original, standalone comedy? The one before “Jojo Rabbit” was “The Disaster Artist,” a film that came out in 2017, however. Then there was “The Descendants,” again, a film that debuted all the way back in 2011. The point I’m trying to make is the art of making a comedy movie is a dying genre that’s become oversaturated with crude attempts that often fail. However, when one does it right, like “Jojo Rabbit” has done, the result is something great and unforgettable.
“Jojo Rabbit” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence and language. As of now, the film has thankfully gained more attention, and to my knowledge, is still playing in select theaters. Though I’d say you’re better off skipping the hassle and just rent it—it’s a rent you won’t regret as this film is a must-see for everyone! Which is why the final score for “Jojo Rabbit” is an 8.5 out of 10!
Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. He currently serves as a Journalist and Copy Editor to the Coastal Breeze News and is working on becoming a Published Author.