I can completely understand why this film isn’t to everybody’s taste. The story of an enthusiastic young Nazi who has Adolf Hitler as an imaginary friend is always likely to raise a few eyebrows. Personally though, I loved it. It’s raucous, unapologetically silly, and utterly hilarious.
Taika Waititi’s brand of zaney screwball comedy may be an acquired taste but here he puts it to great use, lampooning the most serious of subject matter while also showing a canny ability to never be flippant or insensitive. He is not glamorising the Nazi regime in any way, quite the opposite, he’s picking out its absurdities and highlighting its glaring flaws.
What makes Jojo Rabbit stand out however is that despite being a comedy movie, it also has a more serious side which slowly emerges as the story unravels. At the start of the movie, the war is something just happening miles away, a background spectacle which the German townfolk and Jojo in particular can enjoy from a distance. As its impact begins to fully hit home, the realities of war seep in to Jojo’s world and his simple Hitler-loving life is thrown into chaos.
Young lead Roman Griffin Davis is a revelation, wide-eyed and naive one minute, but earnest and caring the next. His interactions with Waititi’s madcap Hitler are among some of the funniest moments, while the scenes he shares with his mother (Scarlett Johansson) are amongst the most touching. Johansson delivers a charming and vibrant character who does her best to temper the extremes of Jojo’s fanaticism.
The rest of the cast is also excellent, particularly young Archie Yates as Yorki, Jojo’s loyal best pal, and the ever-dependable Sam Rockwell who delivers a downtrodden Hitler Youth Camp Instructor who lights up every scene he’s in.
So much more than just an attempt to shock, Jo Jo Rabbit lives up to its billing as an “anti-hate satire”, giving us a unique specimen which combines humour and poignancy is memorable fashion.