Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Watiti, Thomasin McKenzie
Director: Taika Watiti
Running Time: 108 mins
Jojo Rabbit is an American film about a fanatical young boy in the Hitler Youth who discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in his house as the Second World War nears its end.
A properly hilarious comedy, a fantastic and intelligent satire, an eye-opening look at radicalisation and even a moving coming-of-age story, Jojo Rabbit pretty much has it all, and delivers every one of its brilliant ideas with more deliriously chaotic and quirky energy than the last. Perfectly, fulfilling director Taika Watiti’s legendary brand of humour and drama, Jojo Rabbit is an immensely entertaining watch, and despite being a film that often seems so silly on the outside, there’s a whole lot to unpack from within.
However, let’s start with the comedy, because while there’s so much more to Jojo Rabbit, the film is at its best when it’s making you laugh. And thankfully, that’s something it does again and again and again right the way through. If you’ve seen any of Taika Watiti’s films before, you’ll know that he blends a certain style of chaotic, manic humour with deadpan quirkiness, always striking up jokes that will have you laughing your socks off.
Jojo Rabbit at times leans a little more towards the quirky side of things, and there are even times when its style of both comedy and drama is comparable to the likes of Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom in particular here). However, whenever the film is at its quirkiest, there’s always a great burst of sillier, more outlandish comedy to break the ice, whether it be from a darkly comic snapshot of life in a time of war, or the bizarre conversations young Jojo has with an imaginary Adolf Hitler (played hilariously by Taika Watiti himself).
As a result, you’ll be laughing right the way through Jojo Rabbit, no matter what sort of comedy floats your boat. But not only does the film hit the nail on the head when it comes to delivering great comedy, because it also stuns with an ingenious, equally funny and often genuinely moving dramatic core too, covering a wide range of bases from war satire to coming-of-age drama.
On the one hand, the story of young Jojo and his complex relationship with the Jewish girl he finds hiding in his house is a fascinating, adorable and equally unsettling tale. To an extent, it has the Moonrise Kingdom-esque brand of humour and cuteness, but from another perspective, watching this young 10 year-old boy’s response to her upon their first meeting is incredibly unnerving too.
Showing the penetrating power of radicalisation from a young age, young Jojo is a total fanatic for all things Hitler and Nazis. While his mother hides a Jewish girl in the house, and even he begins to befriend the girl, his loyalty always stays with the Führer, and his relationship with his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler seems to be stronger than any other.
As a result, Jojo Rabbit works brilliantly as a cautionary tale of radicalisation and fascism, demonstrating in eye-opening fashion just how powerful propaganda can be on young children, and the devastating toll it can take on their lives as a consequence.
But away from the political side of things, Jojo Rabbit also features an adorable and genuinely moving coming-of-age story. Tying in with young Jojo’s fanaticism for the Nazis, the film shows him grow, fall in love and come to realise that he’s been seeing the world as a game in the past, and not the serious, difficult world of war and racial clashes that he’s been repeating from propaganda.
In that, the story offers up wonderful hope and heartwarming character development throughout, while the delightful performance from Roman Griffin Davis that sees Jojo go from strength to strength through a very complex time in his life is really wonderful to see, playing off Thomasin McKenzie’s equally strong turn very well from beginning to end.
As a result, I really enjoyed Jojo Rabbit. A brilliant film that covers a wide range of bases. From hilarious, gut-busting comedy to unsettling and eye-opening politics, and from quirky childhood romance to a heartwarming coming-of-age story, it’s an intelligent and genuinely delightful watch throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.1 overall.