Jojo Rabbit (2019)

jojo rabbit poster 2019 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Enjoyable, manages to keep the tricky balance for the most part

Sometimes feels like Taika Waititi is trying more to be Wes Anderson than his other pictures

Movie Info

Movie Name: Jojo Rabbit

Studio:  Fox Searchlight Pictures

Genre(s): Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s): September 8, 2019 (Toronto International Film Festival)/October 18, 2019 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

jojo rabbit roman griffin davis hitler taika waititi

Who didn’t have a genocidal tyrant dictator as an imaginary friend growing up?

Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a young boy with dreams of being a member of Hitler’s military.  As a Hitler Youth, Jojo and his friend Yorki (Archie Yates) get to attend a camp to train for Jojo’s future, but an injury forces Jojo to change his plans.  With his mother (Scarlett Johansson) getting him work at the local military office, Jojo tries to keep his dreams of Hitler’s Germany alive…but the discovery of a young Jewish girl named Elsa Korr (Thomasin McKenzie) in his house could change everything.  Jojo is going to have to rely on his best (imaginary) friend Hitler (Taika Waititi) for support.

Directed by Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit is comedy drama satire.  Waititi adapted the 2008 Christine Leunens novel Caging Skies and the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.  The film was released to praise and received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay with nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Johansson), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing.

Taika Waititi is developing as a really interesting actor-director-screenwriter.  When I saw the production stills for Jojo Rabbit and heard the plot, I knew it was the edgie and interesting movie that I wanted to see (and it turned out it was the last movie I saw in the theaters before COVID-19).  I enjoyed Jojo Rabbit, but there is an oddness to it that doesn’t feel like Waititi.

jojo rabbit roman griffin davis thomasin mckenzie

That’s right, Jojo…Jewish people live in your walls!

I want to restate that I enjoyed the movie and that any criticisms are more observances instead of hard criticisms.  The story has the difficult challenge of balancing the humor and darkness of the story.  Funny Nazi stories are a hard sell (especially in today’s climate).  The movie can’t (and doesn’t) come off as apologetic to the Nazi cause, but instead looks at the absurdity of claims and situations that gripped a country…what I don’t necessarily feel is that it is a Taika Waititi film as much as a Wes Anderson film filtered through Waititi.

The cast is great.  Roman Griffin Davis is able to come off as charming despite his love of Hitler.  Waititi’s Hitler plays up the parody along the lines of the Great Dictator, but he manages to jettison the “good guy” act by the end when Jojo sees through his rhetoric.  I’m sometimes on the fence about Scarlett Johansson, but she works here as Jojo’s frustrated mother.  Archie Yates is a scene stealer as Jojo’s friend Yorki, and Thomasin McKenzie does well with the range her character if forced to face.  The goofy trio played by Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, and Rebel Wilson run the risk of being too off the wall, but are used in limited scenes to prevent this.  There is also a fun cameo by Stephen Merchant as the head of the “Heil Hitler” Gestapo.

jojo rabbit roman griffin davis scarlett johansson

This movie is a fun and lighthearted approach to the war…right?

The movie also looks great.  Once again, it feels like a lot of Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom mixed with The Grand Budapest Hotel possibly).  Sequences like Jojo getting dressed are shot in a way that resemble Rushmore (or even Army of Darkness).  It works for the script and the absurdity of the situation is fun.  I particularly like Yorki’s cardboard suit.

Jojo Rabbit is a fun and funny film while still being touching and sad.  The movie has some great moments including a great reveal that demonstrates the horrors of war to Jojo.  It is the type of movie that will be fun to revisit to see some of the nuances of the movie that were possibly missed on the first visit and the style of the movie will allow it to live on in gifs and memes for years.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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