Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★½

Jojo Rabbit is about Johannes "Jojo" Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a young German boy who lives with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) during the later stages of WWII. Jojo is on his way to becoming Eric Cartman, as he is determined to be the finest young Nazi soldier, helped along with his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). After suffering a horrific injury, Jojo is forced to stay home from the Hitler Jugend training camp, where he eventually discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin Mackenzie) in their house. Just from its premise, Jojo Rabbit is a film with a lot of potential. Sadly, I have to go against the grain and say that I think this film completely squanders its massive potential. I will also have to warn you that this review will have some mild SPOILERS!!!

I can at least start with the few positive points I have about the film. The young lead actors both deliver solid performances. Thomasin Mackenzie was good at playing this young girl who is forced to hide from an oppressive regime, and there is one scene in particular where she showed some great restraint in the face of her oppressors. Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo makes for a engaging protagonist, and I admit that I was compelled to see where his character would go. Especially his search for a paternal figure in the face of war was something I found somewhat endearing in a strange way, and I did also enjoy his chemistry with Scarlett Johansson. Part of that might just be that I could relate highly to it, as it was my mother who raised me, primarily on her own. Also, while it didn't heighten the impact of the story for me, I did enjoy the song choices in this film. I just can't resist the use of the German version of David Bowie's "Heroes".

Where the film falters is with its tone and its superficial exploration of its bigger themes. The comedy is too damn thick here, and it doesn't let anything else about Nazi Germany show its ugly face. It shows the Nazis as massive clowns, but never truly acknowledges the fact that they were monsters committing horrible atrocities. I personally think that the comedy would have left a bigger impact, if it had been used to contrast said atrocities. For example, the happy-go-lucky, over-the-top nature of the Nazis that Waititi wants to relish in could have been used as the means to show us why the kids in this film are seduced into supporting the Nazi ideology, but that's not the case in this film. It's just there to show us that Nazis were doing non-sensical things, and it weirdly enough humanized them more than I think Waititi might have intended. There was also the potential to explore how masculine ideals, combined with peer pressure, affects the young mind of Jojo. But no, the film beats around the bush regarding this point, as imaginary Hitler is too easily brushed away and too goofy to be an intimidating masculine ideal looming over Jojo. Finally, the film's plot is too safe and predictable to truly be something that can subvert expectations for a film that wants to fight hate and discrimination. You can tell how everything will progress throughout the film, and it sadly doesn't present anything to me that makes it just a slightly it interesting or memorable.

In conclusion, Jojo Rabbit is a massive disappointment for me. It's hard to say that, since I genuinely loved Taika Waititi's previous directorial efforts. Just watch Hunt for the Wilderpeople instead if you want a funny, yet touching film from Waititi's filmography.

Block or Report

Patrick liked these reviews