JOJO RABBIT (2019) movie review

Waititi’s Hitler
Youth film laughs while the world breaks
Moral conundrum
A MUCH darker film than is advertised. I wasn’t going to see it. I’ve seen enough WWII films. Everyone knows that the Holocaust wasn’t funny.

Then the trailer suggested a playful new take from the Hitler youth side about a boy whose imaginary best friend is Adolf Hitler.

And it is playful and funny, so over the top it’s like satire. Until it isn’t. Until it gives up the game we are enjoying and slaps audiences with the weight and reality so hard and fast, you’re left reeling. I get it. War is ugly. But the set up and smash hurt too much.

Acclaimed director Taika Waititi  must have known the rollercoaster he’d be sending people on, known that making a PG-13 film about a war isn’t possible.

It opens much like a Wes Anderson scene from Moonrise Kingdom, young scouts at camp with a bit of a bumbling scout master. Now switch scouts for Nazis and camp games to battle tactics. Boom and the games are up and the rest of the film is recovery time for the boy, then home with his mother and imaginary friend, Hitler, until he finds a young Jewish girl in his attic.

It’s violent and dark and makes us laugh. This is NOT a children’s film. I’m not certain what audience this was made for. But it’s brutally awakening, as it should be. It’s either a wickedly brilliant social commentary on the politics of present day, or it’s a cruel Jekyl & Hyde creating a humorous play within a hideous scenario. A perfect scene is the little boy who has scrounged through garbage cans for food scraps, sitting at a dinner table across from Adolf gorging himself on the feast of a unicorn head. It’s gruff and grim and cannot possibly be as happy as it looks. The payoff does not match the promise. And perhaps that’s the point.


RATING: C+ …it adds up= A for visuals and unique story, perhaps even for social commentary… F for fooling me into loving characters who were going to be killed in such an abrupt and unforgivable manner… I’m still not all right. 

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