Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★★½

I am not a big fan of comedies because I think too many of them fall victim to what I call "The Hangover Effect". It seems to me that ever since The Hangover came out in 2009, comedy films all try to out-do each other on the outrageous scale. Fortuntely, Jojo Rabbit does not follow along this path; instead it seamlessly blends genres together to make a comedy, drama, and historical fiction hybrid. For this, it is one of the best comedies of the last decade.

This film is based on Christine Leunen's 2008 book, Caging Skies. For writing the film, Taika Waititi took home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. In addition to writing the screenplay, Waititi gleamingly showcased his artistic versatility by directing and starring in the film.

This is a fantastic film all the way through. Taika Waititi really knocked it out of the park. This film manages to take the horrors of 1940s Nazi Germany and turn it into something funny. This is a dangerously thin and controversial line to walk and I applaud the filmmakers and cast for pulling it off so elegantly. It could have easily delved into absurdity but instead it embraces the identity of a film about childhood, family, tolerance, and the impressionability of young minds. It uses the backdrop of Nazi Germany to illustrate several increasingly relevant and powerful points about propaganda, fascism, ethnic discrimination, and genocide.

The film manages to humanize the people in Nazi Germany without conflating them with the perpetuators of the prevalent and damning ideology. There is a clear distinction between normal citizens in Germany and those who adhere to the ideology and the push the destructive, fabricated narratives of the Nazi propaganda machine. For this reason, it works as a comedy because the audience isn’t forced to hate every character, even if the natural inclination of modern audiences might lean that way.

Another great part of this film is the wonderful performances given by a couple of young actors: Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie. Both of them made the film incredibly heartwarming and moving. Despite there being no blood relation, the character of Elsa beautifully fills the gap created by the untimely death of Jojo's sister. There is a clear brother/sister bond that the film captures it brilliantly. The importance of Elsa in relation to Jojo is revealed more as the movie goes on but it doesn’t get there by being too heavy on exposition. The pacing and the plot are relatively simple, but as I was watching it felt natural.

Despite the comedic elements, this film managed to move me emotionally. I laughed plenty, but the movie does not shy away from snapping the audience back to the grim European Theatre of World War II. The way it makes you laugh and smile before immediately following that up with shocking and devastating revelations is seamless. I shed tears during a couple different scenes because the characters were so lovable and their situation felt so real. The comedic scenes were not too goofy and over the top, but it was cleverly imagined and written. I found that to be one of the most charming aspects of this story and I think Waititi and the rest of the film crew should be proud of how balanced the tone of this film is.

The film's seemingly absurd concept of a child with Hitler as an imaginary friend does not hold it back; it turned out to be one of the most elegant and heartwarming dramedies I have ever seen. I highly recommend this film and I am confident in saying it deserves the praise it continually receives.

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