Jojo Rabbit is a daring effort from Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi. However, when you want to communicate the horrors of war while also making people laugh, you’re sure to experience some shortcomings – 3/5
Admittedly, this one sounds pretty damn terrible on paper!
For some time now, New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi has been able to do no wrong.
His directorial feature debut – 2007’s Eagle vs Shark – announced the arrival of an indie talent ready to showcase his quirky style to the masses.
However, his sophomore effort was 2010’s Boy, which even today remains criminally underseen and tells a beautiful coming-of-age story. It wasn’t until 2014 that he achieved more widespread recognition with the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows. He followed this up with the immensely successful Hunt for the Wilderpeople and after he helmed MCU effort Thor: Ragnarok, he was a bonafide household name.
So, how did he follow up his breakthrough into the realm of the blockbuster?
With a comedy tackling Nazi Germany, of course!
Jojo Rabbit stars Roman Griffin Davis as the titular Jojo, a youth blindly devoted to the Führer whose imaginary friend resembles Adolf Hitler himself… as a 10-year-old may have unsettlingly imagined him.
The plot thickens when Jojo discovers his mother (brilliantly played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home.
What we have here is an anti-war satire which could have been far better exercised if it hadn’t aimed to be such a crowdpleaser. However, it’s a testament to Taika’s craft that the film boasts as many laughs as it does. The comedy he attempts here is incredibly risky, but for the most part, he pulls it off, or at least, he does in the first half.
When the jokes fall short, on the other hand, they do threaten to derail the project, despite never doing so. After a pivotal heartbreak, you can’t help but feel like he should have taken a stylistic step back, rather than continuing to pile on the jokes. When you want to convey the atrocities of war to your audience, not everyone will be eager to continue laughing along afterwards.
There’s more to admire than you’d expect when going in though, as the performers are all totally engaging and some of the satire feels genuinely daring and intelligent, rather than misguided.
When you’re tackling a project like this though, issues beyond sculpting entertainment are bound to arise. Just as you begin to lose yourself in it again, there’ll be something to momentarily take you out.