Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★½

Taika Waititi Ranked
2019 Ranked

There’s no doubt Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit has its heart in the right place; the question is whether or not it is clever enough to know when and how to show it. It’s one thing to make a comedy about a young nazi boy with an imaginary Hitler as a friend, it’s another thing to make that story emotionally resonant without turning one of the darkest chapters in modern history into a farce. Waititi takes a risky gamble here which only pays off a few times.

Fans needn’t worry about the comedic value though; on that level Waititi is in wonderful shape, making plenty of knock-out jokes about the ridiculous ideas and concepts of Nazi-Germany. But with humor alone you won’t come very far. It has to serve a purpose and here Waititi’s brand of humor often clashes with the emotional core of the film. That core, as advertised everywhere, is love. Jojo Rabbit is a story about love conquering hate, yet practically every bit of the storyline dealing with love finds itself at a dead end. The relationship between Jojo and his mother has a few key moments but when their story arc comes to an end, it doesn’t leave nearly the emotional impact it should have. The same goes for the bond between Jojo and the Jewish girl his mother hides in their attic. It starts out with a lot of friction, develops the heart that lures Jojo away from his fanaticism for everything Nazi, but only sparingly pushes the boundaries to really exemplify the love that is supposed to be at the center of Waititi’s film.

Many also feared the film would turn the story in a hurtful and inconsiderate pastiche. While this is only half true (the invasion-sequence towards the end feels particularly heartless and infuriatingly melodramatic) most of the film simply remains too unengaged to really truly offend anyway. It remains frightfully surface-level, which may be fine if this really was just a simple film to teach a younger generation about the necessity for love over hate with the backdrop of the second world war but with all the fuss around it (and especially the insane amount of awards recognition) one would think it would go a little more in-depth. Alas, it rarely reaches the feelings it set out to touch upon. Watch it for a few solid quips and stay to marvel at how Thomasin McKenzie (with the little things she gets to do) outacts the entire cast. Let’s hope Waititi thinks a little harder about his next project.

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