Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★★½

You've got to admire the balls on Taika Waititi for writing something quite as smart as the screenplay here. Hitler as a figure of fun? Well in the right hands, then yes, but I could imagine even the thought of this being floated to a studio must have had some moneymen shitting bricks. It's a testament to his skill, wit, and the emotional depth he works into this fascinating comedy/drama that he conjures up howls of laughter and then disbelief at some of the gut-punches delivered without warning. This film did to the Nazis what Spinal Tap did to rock gods, mocking them with such bravado that I'll never look at Hitler in the same way ever again. That line about Hitler having four balls instead of one will remain with me long after the kids from this film have grown up into adults. And that's a good place to start with Waititi's film, because without the kids, and I include Thomasin McKenzie in that, this film could have been very different.

Jojo Betzler is 10 years old and has just joined the Deutsches Jungvolk, akin to the Hitler Youth. He has a spring in his step, young and headstrong, and totally obsessed with the Nazi ideals that have been reinforced by his imaginary friend in the guise of a cartoonish Adolf Hitler. It shouldn't work, but somehow it does, with young Roman Griffin Davis totally believable as the kid who slowly gets educated by the Jewish girl hiding upstairs in his house. His mother, played by Scarlett Johansson, has been hiding the girl and also spreading anti-Nazi literature around town, all unbeknown to the young and precocious Jojo. It's the mixture of satire, goofy buffoonery, and the real life horrors of war that make this such an extraordinary film, one minute you can't breath for laughing, the next you're sitting in stunned silence looking at a pair of shoes dangling from a rope, it's no wonder this was such a hit at the Academy Awards, because the screenplay has everything.

The comic touches from the likes of Rebel Wilson and Sam Rockwell only add to the shenanigans, and it's done with such audacity that you can't help but laugh, even at the absurdness of it all. Wilson's Fraulein Rahm only has a couple of scenes, but boy are they memorable, and alongside the slapstick of Rockwell and his sidekick Alfie Allen, they bring another dimension to a film that's already top-loaded with quite surreal comic moments. The relationship between Jojo and McKenzie's Elsa however is the cornerstone on which the film is built around. It's touching, tender, and at times emotionally quirky as Elsa toys with what young Jojo thinks he knows about the Jews. Waititi's appearances as Adolf are all done for comic effect, and they all deliver, but this film has more than just a imaginary friend as a gimmick. Credit must also go to young Archie Yates who played Jojo's mate Yorki, rarely have I seen comic timing as good as that in a youngster, his little appearances always perfectly timed during the flow of the film. Sometimes it's surprising what you laugh at too, that Heil Hitler scene in Jojo's house was just hilarious, so simple, but so effective. I've rarely seen a satire as cleverly done as this, and I can't wait to watch it again, let's hope Waititi keeps this up because he's gonna be a legend if he does.

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