Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit

I went into Jojo Rabbit with mild curiosity and major skepticism. As more and more trailers and info for the film was released, the more and more confused I was by what the hell the tone of this thing was. I needed to see it and decide for myself.

This is my first Taika Waititi film, and quite frankly it's probably my last. He may be a well intentioned funny dude with a good twitter and a solid film resume with a marvel film that actually had an ounce of personality, but Jojo Rabbit is 100% getting a pass because he's so likeable. I would have never guessed.

Jojo Rabbit is a glorified Donald Trump SNL skit extended to 100 excruciating minutes. As I initially feared, the film makes no attempt at justifying its quirky, wannabe Wes Anderson tone and instead doubles down on naive innocence to cover one of the least innocent times in world history. The humor of Jojo Rabbit ultimately lands on the same punchline over and over again: Nazis are naive and stupid. HiTlEr DoEs a GoOf. Rinse and repeat. Waititi ultimately goes this route as an attempt to delegitimize the power and fear white supremacy seeks to exploit, and his execution does the exact opposite. If the entire Nazi regime of Jojo Rabbit are braindead buffoons and manchildren, what the hell does that make the 11 million jews that were slaughtered by them? Jojo Rabbit tries to tiptoe around the actual atrocities of WWII only to use them as cheap tools to fuel a hokey narrative with a message you already know: Nazi bad, love guud. It's self congratulatory garbage that's bound to get eaten up by the choir it's obviously preaching to.

The mind boggling amount of dumb shit that is getting unchecked in this movie is kind of breaking me. I've been dreading the thought of trying to actually articulate everything about Jojo Rabbit that thoroughly pisses me off, but my thoughts spiral into angry bullet points instead of an actual coherent review.

So fuck it here we go! Spoilers from here on out:

- Jojo's family dynamics don't make a lick of fucking sense. It is alluded to that Jojo's father is either a freedom fighter who has escaped from German military service, yet both a deadbeat and negative influence on Jojo's life. Jojo's mother (the only human in the entire movie played by Scarlett Johansson) is a warm confident supporter of the allies who preaches compassion and love. So how the hell did they raise a nazi shit head for a son? Beats me. Peer pressure is one thing, but to go home from Nazi lessons to a loving household that has somehow failed to instill a single positive aspect of themselves into their own child is a gaping plot hole that all of Germany can fit into.

- I'm 100% convinced without a lick of research that Taika Waititi does not have a sister, or has ever met a woman. The way Elsa and Jojo's relationship is written is flat out disgusting. Elsa is literally a manic pixie Anne Frank in hiding that only exists to teach Jojo a lesson about love and peace and harmony yaddah yaddah yaddah. The film has them written as if they're going to be a love interests for the entire run time (even including the 'butterflies in stomach' cliche) until the climatic scene where Jojo reveals his love for Elsa... AS A SISTER OF COURSE BECUASE UHHHHHHH YOU'RE TOO OLD FOR ME HAHAHAHA THAT'D BE AWKWARD RIGHT? It's literally amended in the dialogue to address its own creepiness, and feels like a footnote to appease audiences who'd obviously find this shit problematic. It still is.

- For a film that tries to address the harmful influence of stigmatizing stereotypes, it seems to have no problems perpetuating those same stereotypes for the sake of the cheapest of punchlines. Everyone in this movie talks with that cringeworthy fake German accent that'd get old in a 20 minute episode of South Park yet alone a 100 minute prestige film that's probably going to be nominated for a ton of academy awards hahahahahahah kill me.

- Speaking of harmful stereotypes, we have to talk about Sam Rockwell's character here. Kletzendorf is the dumbest of the dumb when it comes to the Nazi's depicted, as he is constantly bumbling over his own two feet, getting demoted further and further down the Nazi hierarchy until he can only babysit nazi kids at a swimming pool. Jojo's repeated questions about false Jewish stereotypes to Kletzendorf eventually gets the gestapo sent to Jojo's house. but HOLD UP! In the least shocking plot twist of the century, it turns out Sam Rockwell is playing the good Nazi can you believe it? Turns out he covers for Jojo and Elsa for SOME reason (awfully communicated in the script) and saves Jojo's life in the end because he thought his mother was ACTUALLY good? (Even more awfully communicated). I never understood any of his motivations. If you are actually a freedom fighter, why be a nazi? Then why be depicted as an idiot? Why link the chain of events of Jojo's mothers own death to him? Why rat on Jojo's suspicious questions to the gestapo? WHY BOTHER HAVING A GOOD NAZI AT ALL? In a decade where the "resurrection" of white supremacy has corrupted politics and culture past the point of ignorance, this narrative that Nazis are just misunderstood or really good guys underneath is a pipe dream. Fuck them. We don't want good nazis. Apparently audiences are okay with belittling dumbass nazis because somehow that depiction isn't harmful and belittling to actual victims of white supremacy, but I digress.

- As if Sam "The Good Nazi” Rockwell’s character depiction wasn't confusing and baffling enough, Taika Waititi asks the question no one else dared to ask (because they're not manchildren): "WhAt iF hE wUz gAYyYyYyYyYyyyyyy? Klenzendorf's queerness is never used as anything more as another punchline steeped in harmful stereotypes, because a gay nazi? now THAT's comedy! Give him a flamboyant gun and cape! Have him do funny gay things like pine for another man! isn't that so funny?

This paragraph is gonna be long one because it hits home especially for me. I can't lend a jewish perspective to the awfulness presented here, but I can lend a queer one. For the love of god stop painting all closeted gay men as monsters lashing out because they can't possibly fathom being gay. It's the same energy the whole "Putin and Trump totally fucked" memes bring. We don't want your murderers, rapists, nazis, etc. We just want to exist. I've been (mostly) closeted my entire life, and every depiction of these characters are harmful because their queerness is used as a crutch as to why they are awful. Lemme scream it from the mountain tops: CLOSETED MEN AREN'T DANGEROUS, TOXIC MASCULINITY AND GENDER EXPECTATIONS ARE DANGEROUS. What makes Klenzendorf even more of a baffling depiction is that his redemption as a "Good Nazi" then implicates that his queerness is an inherent good beneath all the "pretend evil" he masquerades as to save face and survive the war. Apparently? Like seriously his character motivations are so confusing I have no idea wtf Taika was trying to do with him. But this perspective introduces an even more braindead train of thought: Does Klenzendorf's queerness inherently make him one of the good guys? I haven't read much publicity or interviews from the film, (I'm trying to practice self care to SOME capacity) but apparently Waititi was very proud of his depiction of Rockwell being a good proud queer character who lives in the gray. Yes. THE NAZI. THE GOOD GAY NAZI. Being gay doesn't automatically default you to being good. Some of the most homophobic closed minded individuals I've ever met were gay men with extremely limiting and invasive ideals of what men ought to be like and how they should act. I don't care who you fuck or how you fuck if YOU'RE A GOD DAMN NAZI! I can't believe I feel obligated to "have" to write this down.

- The biggest contributor to how Jojo Rabbit immediately rubbed me the wrong way is in how absolutely toothless its depiction of Nazi Germany is. It's all a joke until it randomly isn't. I will give Taika Waititi credit where credit is due: The "shoe" scene is actually visceral and shocking in the way the film SHOULD have been the entire time. It was creatively set up visually and audibly shook my theater. It was the only moment that worked for me. It's the only point of the film where I'm reminded "oh yeah, this is supposed to be a WWII film. hahahah I forgot." Do I even reward this scene for doing what the film should have been from the get go? Would this scene even work if everything that surrounds it weren’t childish garbage?  Idk, I'm still conflicted on if I should give a world war II scene credit for actually being a world war II scene. It's literally the only thing separating me from giving this a 1 or a .5 ugh.

That's all I really have to say I guess. I never saw the film for obvious reasons, but I can't imagine a universe where Green Book is worse than this. It won't be the worst or most offensive film I see in 2019 (Mope takes the cake easily) but Jojo Rabbit is easily the most misguided, embarrassing, confusing, and overrated chunk of slop of the year.

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