AskJanet’s review published on Letterboxd:
Very cutesy. I can see how some would love this but it didn’t quite work for me.
It’s an ambitious topic to try and pull off. I don’t think the subject matter is untouchable, it can work, and an example of a political/historical black comedy that I think DID work was 2017’s criminally underrated Death of Stalin, both hilarious and unafraid to show the ugliness of the USSR regime. I’m not against the idea of a comedy about Nazi Germany, and if you are going to do Nazi satire today, you need to really go for it, but this didn’t have enough bite. It wasn’t black enough, or funny enough. In some ways it felt like it would have worked as a Python or SNL skit, but as a film there were major tonal issues for me.
At times this feels like a Wes Anderson film, in terms of its twee tone, offbeat music and stylised composition. Again, it’s all very cute. I don’t mind anachronisms and intentionally discordant tone in film but I didn’t like it here, particularly in the second half. The incongruity of tone lessened the emotional impact of some scenes late in the movie. I don’t feel like every film needs to have a “point” even, but I was questioning it here. I laughed here and there but for a film that brands itself as “anti-hate satire”, it didn’t feel like it was that satirical? Nazis had ludicrous discriminatory opinions about Jews, fueled by propaganda? Yep we know. Those views culminated in mass genocide? Not really touched on here. I don’t think the holocaust is ever really mentioned, aside from one allusion to Thomasin McKenzie’s character never seeing her family again, and yet the holocaust was all I could think about while watching. I know it’s from a child’s perspective, but don’t do a Nazi Germany satire and completely ignore the holocaust.
I also don’t see the point in being so soft on Nazi’s in 2019. Maybe the fact that I was watching it in what currently feels like The End Times, with the entire country basically up in flames, made me feel less charitable. But the film felt very removed from today’s rising right-wing nationalism, it wasn’t really landing any blows. The Nazi’s are lampooned to look like imbeciles in way that elicits some laughs but also felt toothless. I think I’m a bit over portrayals of racists as dummies, it feels like a cop-out as clearly there are some smart enough racists pulling the strings, whether it’s Goebbels or the Murdoch press. I felt a bit the same way about Black KKKlansman, I enjoyed it but by portraying all the racists as dumb rednecks it makes it easier to relegate the story to the past and laugh at the idiots, it doesn’t force audiences to engage with and question the present.
This all sounds a bit harsh, and Jojo Rabbit does work on some heart-warming levels. It works best as a coming of age story about a boy realizing the horrors of what is going on around him, realizing that truths are lies, wanting to belong, and learning to accepting differences. Not ground-breaking, but done well mostly due to the strength of the child performances. Jojo is very sweet but the star of the film for me was Archie Yates, what a cherub, someone please cast him as Piggie in Lord of the Flies. I liked the music choices, not sure if I liked how they were used.
A very negative review all in all for I film I still somewhat enjoyed, the story was never boring. I honestly think in another time in my life I would have loved this, lots of friends did. An interesting and at times likable mishit.