Jojo Rabbit Movie Review

Jojo Rabbit is a charming and disarmingly funny tour de force of director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows).

When the first minute of the movie hits you with Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi, himself a Polynesian Jew whose sense of irony is at its peak here) goofing around with a sieg-heiling 10 year old, you just know you're in for a wild ride. Little Johannes "Jojo" Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a Hitler Youth who idolizes the Fuhrer, much to the chagrin of his mom Rosie (played to deft perfection by Scarlett Johansson). When Jojo finds out that his mom is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in the walls of his home, his belief system is turned upside down as he grows to care for her. Ah, youth.

I've criticized Waititi's excessive bathos ruining the gravitas in Thor Ragnarok, but in Jojo Rabbit he thankfully finds the balance, with humor never undercutting the tense or dramatic moments. Nazis and the Holocaust are no laughing matters, but Waititi finds joy in cutting through all the pretentiousness and making us laugh with wordplay gags ("Heil me, man!" Hitler gleefully shouts at one point), or with sheer absurdity of the convictions of the Nazi regime. ("Germany is the most advanced civilization in the world," says Rebel Wilson as Fraulein Rahm. "Now let's go burn some books!") Like they say, it's funny because it's true.

At the heart of it all is Roman Griffin Davis in quite possibly the finest performance of a child actor I've seen. Davis convincingly shifts from cold indoctrinated Nazi in one scene to wide-eyed kid who can't even tie his own shoelaces the next, all without missing a beat. His coming-of-age journey is part My Girl, part The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and it's a delight to watch Davis take on both comedic and dramatic scenes with the flair of a veteran actor. The rest of the film's marvelous cast of characters may feel like caricatures at first glance, like Sam Rockwell's depressed and secretly flamboyant army officer Captain Klenzendorf, but there's a humanity to them that's very much needed in a movie about an era where there seemed to be none.

It's a rare occurrence for a movie this daring to be both entertaining and moving, but Jojo Rabbit certainly dares--and mostly succeeds--to spearhead the message that maybe there's more to your neighbor than their beliefs or the color of their skin, and there's nothing more silly than your leaders' opinions making you think otherwise.

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