Rating: 7.5/10 (Entertaining Political Satire)
Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates, and Scarlett Johansson
Written and Directed by: Taika Waititi
Based on: Caging Skies by Christine Leunens
Cinematographer: Mihai Malaimare Jr.
Music: Micheal Giacchino
Editor: Tom Eagles
Producers: Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi, Chelsea Winstanley
Banners: TSG Entertainment, Defender Films, Piki Films
Runtime: 108 minutes
It's a known fact when that Adolf Hitler was one of the most bizarre and polarizing figures and the Swastika and Nazi have gone onto become symbols of hatred and racism amongst human beings since their demise post World War II.
But what if in an alternate world, Hitler was actually a comedian who helped little children achieve their dreams of becoming Nazi's and running a camp dedicated to serving the Nazi party. Sounds ballsy and borderline offensive right? Well that's exactly what director Taika Waititi accomplishes with his latest film Jojo Rabbit.
The film's story is simple. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a young Germany boy who dreams of becoming a Nazi soldier one day. He's aided by his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler played by Waititi himself. However his world is turned upside down when he finds a Jew named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in his house, which questions the prejudice and the way he sees the world.
What follow is a beautiful and hilarious tale of innocence, prejudice, and satire in this movie.
Everybody is aptly cast and delivers a splendid performance. Roman Griffin Davis all of 10 years old delivers a charming performance and is infectious as the titular Jojo. Thomasin Mckenzie is excellent as Elsa, the girl trying to fit in a war torn world filled with discrimination and prejudice. Taika Waititi as Adolf Hitler is a laugh riot and brings his classic wit and charm to the role which makes it all the more effective.
Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, and Rebel Wilson are all hilarious in their respective roles and despite the respective nationalities in American, English, and Australian, the trio pull off the accents with flawless rendition and pronunciation.
Rockwell in particular shines throughout and gets a nice moment towards the climax. Stephen Merchant in more of a cameo is apt as a Gestapo officer.
Lastly, Scarlett Johansson as Jojo's mother delivers an endearing performance. It's a nice welcome change for the superstar actress after constant studio blockbusters in the last few years and reinforces her acting capabilities and ability to make you shed a tear.
Usually when genre shifts happen, sometimes the mark of a director is often lost in translation or completely ditched in hopes of reinvention and the prove a point. Waititi, known for his quirky sense of humor and funny guy acts, thankfully stays true to his forte. One could easily say that Jojo Rabbit is more of an arthouse film rather than the massive film yet hilarious film that was Thor Ragnarok. You can see his mark all over the film with hilarious sequences and subtle humor sprinkled throughout. The first two acts are dedicated to the comic sequences and building the characters. However it's in the last act that the message and goal of the film really comes to fruition.
A film on Nazi's cannot be overly happy and joyful and Waititi aims to break that stereotype for the majority. As other critics might have stated, the satire might not be for everyone and that's ok. What matters is that Waititi's direction is pretty good for the most part. The characters, story, setup, humor and emotions are all balanced in the right proportions which makes Jojo a lighthearted satire with a nice message in the end.
Technically, the film is sound. Music by Micheal Giacchino complements the story well and the songs used throughout fit the overall comic mood very well. The cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr. is excellent. The color patterns and scheme fit very well with lighthearted angle of the movie. Vibrant colors such as green are featured predominantly throughout the narrative. Editing by Tom Eagle is apt. Production Design by Ra Vincent is outstanding. The sets and the whole production as whole gives that Nazi and peak World War II feeling. Costumes by Mayes C. Rubeo is fantastic. The costumes look authentic throughout the film. Lastly, the Production Values are extravagant and the producers and the executives at Fox Searchlight should be commended for making an honest film in 2019 given the studio setup and current situation in the film industry.
Waititi's goal to make a lighthearted movie based on Nazi's works mightily. So in terms of flaws, Jojo is obviously not perfect. Depending on one's tastes, it's not for everybody. Satire and political jokes about such an offensive party may not go down well with certain section of the audience and maybe Jojo could have dealt deeper into the Nazi issues and prejudices. Maybe one could also complain that the film doesn't go deep enough into its characters or the real Nazi atrocities, but given the sensitive subject matter, it's something can be overlooked in the end.
Because it's not a history lesson, it's a film in the end. Which begs the question of the tolerance of the film's content.
If you're easily offended by Heil Hitler dialogues and Nazi jokes and presence of a Swastika, then by all means do not watch this movie. It's not a universal comedy entertainer meant to please everyone's feelings.
This is an arthouse film with a very niche audience who have the stomach and ability to not take it so seriously and just be entertained and moved by the story. Going by the trailer, you know what to expect and you're a fan of Waititi's previous work, you will probably enjoy this movie.
Overall, Jojo Rabbit is a lighthearted and entertaining political satire film that has its heart in the right place. Nicely sprinkled humor throughout, solid performances, and an emotional third act make this movie worth a watch.
It borderlines the fine line between offensive and funny and what type of film connoisseur you are determines how much you'll enjoy this film. If you're not a snowflake who gets offended easily that is.