Alfie AllenRebel Wilson...
In 1 Cinema
A funny WWII feature starring Hitler as a ten-year old’s imaginary friend, can it work?
Jojo Rabbit follows young German boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who is a firm believer of the Nazi ideology and a supporter of Hitler (Taika Waititi), who is also his imaginary friend. Jojo discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been secretly hiding a Jewish girl called Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their house. Having been taught that Jews are demonic creatures of evil powers, Jojo is fearsome of Elsa at first, but he has no choice but to keep quiet to avoid risking his and his mother’s life at the hands of the ruthless Gestapo.
Despite being based on Christine Leunens’ serious novel Caging Skies, this feature is an absurdist comedy. After some archival footage, the film starts with Jojo talking to Hitler in preparation for a Nazi kid camp. From the start, Jojo Rabbit keeps getting more and more ridiculous, especially with characters like the head of the camp, Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), and his assistant Fraulein Rahm – who are almost entirely caricatures.
While some of the jokes are funny, the film is not nearly as amusing as it needs to be to fit into the absurdist genre it classifies itself as. The interaction between Jojo and Elsa is where the film really works in terms of comedy; otherwise, only one out of ten jokes are cleverly funny, and that is especially the case with Captain Klenzendorf and Fraulein Rahm.
The comedy of the feature also took a hit, because no matter how ridiculously portrayed, they are some things are just not funny, like a child seeing hanged people in the middle of the street.
Jojo Rabbit starts to become much more cohesive when the drama aspect kicks in in the second half, where the pieces of the puzzle finally fall into place.
For the acting, director Taika Waititi played Hitler with a strong passion, making him a combination between the real-life Hitler and the imagined father figure that a 10-year-old boy would conjure. Roman Griffin Davis gave a solid and relatable performance that drew sympathy. Thomasin McKenzie’s presence was compelling, as she portrayed Elsa as a sassy fierce young woman who is in no way a victim, and she nailed it. Scarlett Johansson had a somewhat small but warm role which she played adequately.
Jojo Rabbit is definitely a different take on the time of Hitler’s ruling, yet the success of its absurdist approach is debatable.