Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★

So, OK, I have incredibly mixed feelings about Jojo Rabbit and I'm not sure I'll be able to coherently talk about it. Or, more accurately, I can probably convey some of these mixed feelings, but y'all will probably think I've finally been taken over by a brain slug.

Ten-year-old Jojo lives in Germany during the height of Hitler's reign. He's an enthusiastic Nazi, who has internalized Hitler propaganda as a matter of fact and trains with other boys his age to be good future Nazis. Helping him is an imaginary Hitler, who takes on the role of Jojo's personal adviser/father figure (Jojo's real father gone missing in the war). He speaks with bravado about being ready to kill any Jew he sees--a declaration put to the test when he discovers a Jewish girl hiding in his attic.

The first thing that threw me for a loop is the jokey/BFF tone of Jojo's imaginary Hitler. The low key comedy thing is a weird tack to take with a man who is responsible for *waves at two world wars and on-going Nazi appropriation* that. Certainly, humor has a place in tackling awful people. Heck, Charlie Chaplin made a film called The Great Dictator that satirized Hitler while Hitler was still alive to great effect. I'm not sure what Jojo Rabbit is going for here--it's not really a satire--but it feels like it trivializes Hitler, and by effect, the Nazi movement. "It's not really Hitler, it's just the construct that Jojo envisions Hitler to be." OK, I get that. But it's still a representation of the man. If someone used Delphine LaLaurie as a comedic imaginary friend for a white kid living on the cusp of the abolishment of slavery, that would be in extremely poor taste and we wouldn't really care how the kid viewed her compared to reality. And frankly, in the age of Trump, anything that takes too lighthearted of an approach to issues surrounding racism/white supremacy strikes a sour note with me. Director Taika Waititi--who also played the role of Hitler here--describes himself (per Wikipedia) as being from Jewish heritage, so there's certainly a level of subversion going on here, but for me, as a viewer, I was a bit uncomfortable with it. Admittedly, I did not know Waititi is from Jewish background while watching this; I'll be curious to see, knowing that, how a rewatch goes down.

Aesthetically, Jojo Rabbit feels the world like a Wes Anderson film. This is only my third Waititi film (What We Do in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok before it), so maybe he's used that vibe in some of his other stuff. I wasn't expecting it, but it's solidly done.

Good performances over all, even from Scarlett Johansson whom I've grown to dislike over the last decade. But the standout is Archie Yates, who plays Jojo's friend, Yorki. He steals every scene he's in with good humor and personality. This is his only IMDb credit so far (other than a forthcoming Home Alone reboot that I can already tell he's much too talented for) and I'm excited to see where his career goes.

Generally solid film, but as I wasn't on the right humor page, it landed a bit flat for me.

[edit]Lowering my rating by half a star after sitting on this review for a couple of hours.

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