If the purpose of satire is to sway an audience towards seeing the inherent folly in a corrupt system, how boring an artist must Taika Waititi be to have birthed this charming, entertaining but ultimately pointless film? Some may find Jojo Rabbit, the filmmaker’s new passion project, a humorous labor of love, but detractors and admirers alike will be hard-pressed to find any genuine reason for it to exist at all.

Adapted from Christine Leunens’ novel “Caging Skies”, Jojo Rabbit follows Johannes Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a 10-year-old Hitler Youth in Germany during WWII whose imaginary best friend is literally Adolf Hitler (Waititi himself). Little Jojo loves die Fuhrer with all his heart, much to the chagrin of his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). The film is a cutesy, largely humorous little coming-of-age tale about Jojo wanting to become a useful soldier for the Reich, while constantly engaging with new situations that poke comical holes into the lies he’s been told. But the primary focus of his conflict comes when he discovers Rosie has been providing shelter to a Jewish teenage girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie).

This is the kind of movie where Waititi thought it hilarious to restage the scene from Twilight where Robert Pattinson makes Kristen Stewart say the word “vampire” dramatically, only with “Jew” comedically transposed in its place. It is a twee and majestic little gem of a kid’s film, functioning with all the visual efficiency and quirky élan seen in other Waititi films, or that of his peers like Edgar Wright, Paul King and James Bobin, but where some of those directors’ best works use this lighthearted tone to get across deeper ideas, Waititi appears to have nothing of value to say here.

Once the viewer gets past the base-level shock and awe of Hitler arguing with a small child like he’s Drop Dead Fred, there’s precious little about this tale that feels in any way relevant or worth stating. By the time Sam Rockwell is getting his now annual showcase as a terrible racist who maybe, sorta, kinda has a heart of gold, it’s difficult not to wonder how Waititi looked at the world in 2019, with its resurgence of white supremacy, nationalism and literal Nazism, and thought we all really needed a precious indie comedy about the fucking Holocaust.

When Jojo Rabbit works, which is seldom, it functions in a way that still makes most of its core creative decisions seem questionable. The two elements of the film that work the best, the complex relationship between Jojo and his mother and his getting to know and understand Elsa, both would work just as well if the film wasn’t so gleefully in your face about its grossly irritating tone. There are a handful of powerful dramatic moments that prove Waititi knows how to effectively shift tone when necessary, but it’s all undercut by how pointless the film feels as a whole.

Maybe some audience members will be beguiled by this approach and heap plaudits on Waititi for assumed bravery and ambition, but with something this toothless in an era that could really use more bite, what good does it do patting someone on the back for doing the absolute bare minimum?

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3 Comments

  1. Jabberwolf

    October 26, 2019 at 2:47 am

    Wow, I didn’t know a failed writer, envious, bitter and full of vinegar could steep lower than what he has already become. A washed up movie reviewer who writes an occasional crude write-up of a great movie that he longs to be offended by. Because seriously, what else would this poor reviewer’s life mean without stepping on the graves of others to feel taller?! So thanks for standing up to those against white supremacy and being triggered by a movie that actually dispels antisemitic stereotypes that indoctrinated nazi children had of Jews. You must be a giant among your fellow sycophants and stand tall among their ignorance.
    They say only those with very low IQ fail to see humor, and are easily offended. Thanks for proving what depths yours has fallen to.

    Reply

  2. Sandy Savett

    October 26, 2019 at 10:49 am

    JoJoRabbitt is bad film. To try to make
    a film ,a comedy, about Nazi Germany
    is bad taste, a sin, whatever negative word one wants to use.
    Not one review I have read mention the
    bodies hanging or the horrible death of the Mother.

    Reply

    • J

      October 27, 2019 at 5:37 pm

      Probably because those things are spoilers. I feel the same way about this movie, but I gave it a better review (three stars). I saw it as an extremely well done Wes Anderson clone (selection of music, timed zooms, coming of age story of young boys in uniforms, learning about love, etc). But the points the reviewer makes are valid.

      Reply

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