We are big fans of writer/director Taika Waititi here at OC Movie Reviews. His style of humour is right up my strasse and, where I’d usually roll my eyes at a director putting himself in his own movies, with Waititi, it generally works.
Jojo, Roman Griffin Davis, is a 10-year old boy who loves swastikas and who’s imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler, played here by Waititi himself. Jojo gains the nickname Jojo Rabbit at a nazi training school for young boys.
There, where they are taught climbing, death, the evil of Jews and hand grenades, Jojo is passed a rabbit to kill to ‘prove himself’ but he can’t. Instead, after being perked up by Hitler, he grabs a grenade from trainer Captain Klenzendorf, Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri“, “Vice“), and throws it into a tree, where it rebounds, landing near his feet and exploding.
The aftermath leaves him with scarring, which everyone generally says is hideous, and a limp. His mother Rosie, Scarlett Johansson (“Avengers: Endgame“, “Isle Of Dogs“), ensure he can help out at the local nazi party HQ, whilst she goes about her secret business.
Upon returning home from putting up propaganda posters around town, Jojo hears a noise upstairs and, on investigation, finds a young Jewish girl called Elsa, Thomasin McKenzie (“Leave No Trace”, “The Changeover”), living in the eaves.
It transpires that Rosie is helping Elsa, who threatens to cut Jojo’s nazi little head off if he tells anyone she’s there. What follows is Jojo coming to turns with the fact he has a Jew in his house, a race he has been told all sorts of lies about, and the conflict with his imaginary friend, Adolf.
Jojo Rabbit is extremely funny, there’s simply no getting away from how down-to-earth funny this movie is. It’s not subtle, but it works. However, don’t be fooled into thinking you will be going in to see some slapstick comedy about Hitler or the nazi’s, that’s not the case at all.
Waititi, adapting from a book by Christine Leunens, fills the story with plenty of love, emotion and heart as well. In fact, for many, this may be what puts you off the film rather than the whole nazi/Germany/Hitler thing.
Jojo Rabbit is surprisingly moving and passionate, it has a lot to say on loving one another, being yourself and just being nice. But it is also very, very funny.
Newcomer Davis is the find of the century, acting like he was born to do it, whilst Waititi plays a camp, OTT Hitler who occasionally attempts to get serious with some rants that don’t quite come off, perhaps the only down-mark of the whole film.
Johansson and McKenzie perform admirably, the latter showing some good range, whilst Rockwell is just loving his role as the inept Captain.
A special mention must go to Yorki, Archie Yates, also in his first role, who plays JoJo’s best friend, well second-best friend, top spot is reserved for the fuhrer. Yates has some incredibly funny lines that are easily missed but you should listen out for them, he performs them brilliantly, with a subtle naivety that works superbly.
The whole film is an absolute delight, fans of Waititi will lap it up. It has a lot of heart and emotion, way more than I was expecting, alongside fantastic humour and brilliant performances. It also has the best “F*ck off Hitler” moments you’ll ever see on screen. “Heil me, just a little one?”
3rd January 2020
THE QUICK SELL
A young boy in Hitler's army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.