Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★★

In this gentle, but pointed, comic satire set in Germany at the end of World War II, 10-year old, fatherless Jojo Betzler (a superbly animated, age-appropriate performance by actor Roman Griffin Davis) subscribes wholeheartedly to the allure of organized Hitler Youth. He even conjures up an imaginary friend, a child's fantasy of Adolf Hitler (portrayed by the director, Taika Waititi) to serve as comic foil to the horrors surrounding the innocent boy. The complex plot includes the hiding of a Jewish girl in the family's attic, the deaths of those dear to the young boy, a realistic view of the travails of the imperiled village as the allies surround the city, and a biting parody of Nazism worthy of Chaplin.

Waititi has proven in the past to be a brilliant director of young boys (for instance Julian Dennison in Hunt for the Wilderpeople); but here he outdoes himself with his fortunate discovery in young Davis. But no less interesting are the comical Nazi portrayals by character actors Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant, caricatures to be sure, but pointed ones. It takes guts and skill to make a successful comedy about Nazism. Roberto Benigni didn't quite pull it off (IMHO) with Life is Beautiful. But with this film, Waititi has provided just the right mixture of satire and pathos to produce a totally diverting entertainment out of abject misery.

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