This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Mike D'Angelo’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Generally speaking, I support radical adaptations that use their source material as inspiration for something altogether different, à la There Will Be Blood and (especially) Under the Skin. Beats hidebound fidelity virtually every time. Not this time, though. Without having read the book—which apparently isn't at all comedic—I can't confidently state that tackling it more straightforwardly would have yielded better results; it's entirely possible that you'd just wind up making a mediocre, overly familiar Holocaust drama that foregrounds the ever-popular Nazi With A Conscience (though at least that's more plausible when it's a small boy). But I'd mistakenly assumed that Waititi had invented Jojo Rabbit from whole cloth, and after an hour-plus of wincing as the film's toothless satire gummed up the screen, I was surprised to find myself growing genuinely anxious when Elsa emerges from her hiding place and poses as Jojo's dead sister. And then getting a bit choked up at Jojo's inadvertent declaration of love, as revealed via his Nathan-hating sketchbook. (Thomasin McKenzie— also superb in the otherwise blah Sundance film Lost Girls—confirms that she's gonna be around for a while.) "This maybe kinda could've worked minus all the stupid, goofy nonsense," I thought, as yet unaware that Waititi had imposed said nonsense onto serious material. It's as if "Springtime for Hitler" and the little girl with the red coat (a plant/payoff that's echoed here with Mom's distinctive shoes*) were part of the same movie. Just a horrendous miscalculation, and learning about the novel afterward only made it seem less explicable. There Jojo is vying for multiple Oscars on Sunday, though, so clearly not everyone feels similarly repulsed. I choose to assume those are the Green Book fans (and lingering Crash-best dummies).
* Her death was the moment that made me actively angry, as it felt not merely unearned but borderline obscene in this context.