Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Jojo Rabbit
Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Taika Waititi
Based on: Christine Leunens‘s book Caging Skies
Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates
Seen on: 26.1.2020

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) has two best friends in the world: Yorki (Archie Yates) and Adolf (Taika Waititi) – as in Hitler. Of course, Jojo knows that Adolf is imaginary, but that doesn’t make him any less real to him and Adolf’s encouragement as Jojo joins the Hitler Youth is invaluable to him. But Jojo’s life takes a sharp turn after an accident that leaves him unable to be part of the Hitler Youth and he discovers that his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home.

I went into Jojo Rabbit with very high expectations. So far, I very much enjoyed Waititi’s films, reviews of the films have been very positive and the trailer looked great. And maybe my expectations were too high, but I left the film with a sinking feeling of disappointment.

The film poster showing the film's main characters.

Don’t get me wrong, the film is very nice. It’s enjoyable, has some excellent jokes and a great cast. But emotionally, it didn’t work out for me at all. I couldn’t get into it. It always stayed in the emotional shallows for me, and it wasn’t even different emotions – the film always seemed to hit the same note. With the exception of one scene that is definitely super-touching. [SPOILER] When Jojo finds Rosie hanging from the gallows. [/SPOILER] Unfortunately that scene has absolutely no impact on the rest of the film and afterwards, the movie continues as if nothing had happened. There’s no noteable change in Jojo’s life.

I do appreciate what Waititi’s trying to do here: he is ridiculing the Nazis and much like with the Boggart in Harry Potter where ridiculing it takes away its power, he tries to take away their power through that. And this works, as the Nazis in this film aren’t scary at all. Unfortunately this includes making them all look stupid, which is a pretty ableist way of ridiculing them. But the thing is, the Boggart is scary first, there is still a sense of danger to it. That is lost here. One has to wonder how the Nazis got where they are, how they were ever even perceived to be even slightly dangerous, when they are all this incompetent.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) jumping over a barricade together with his imaginary friend Adolf (Taika Waititi).

If this sounds overly critical, maybe it is. I definitely didn’t sit in the film and suffer – it was fun and there were some moments where it made me laugh for sure. Archie Yates was the absolute cutest, Thomasin McKenzie was fantastic and Sam Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf is a very interesting character that I would have liked to see a more critical treatment of (without redemption, maybe). I can imagine that if my expectations had been lower, I would have been more positive about it.

But I can imagine “what if”s all day – the fact is, I left the movie with a shrug. And I was definitely hoping for more.

Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) and Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis).

Summarizing: it’s not bad, but I wanted more from it.

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