JoJo Rabbit – Taika Watiti does it again (Spoiler free review)
You’d imagine a film about a young boy joining the Hitler Youth would be a sombre affair. Not so with Taika Watiti’s latest movie, JoJo Rabbit, a satirical war comedy.
The film is based on Christine Leunesn’s book Caging Skies, and tells the story of Johannes Betzler, a 10 year old boy that joins the Hitler Youth group in an attempt to be the best Nazi he could be – This description sounds a rather serious subject to attempt to make a comedy from, but Taika has managed to balance the serious subject of Hitler and the Nazi movement with satire, and at times, laugh out loud funny moments as the titular character struggles with morals, his mother’s secret and the inept Nazi general in charge of the Hitler Youth group of his town (played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell).
It’s difficult to give a full review for this film without spoiling it… Some of the best parts of the film are pivotal moments in the film, but I will try!
Taika has managed to capture the innocence of youth within Johannes (JoJo) brilliantly and the actor Roman Griffin Davies plays the part wonderfully. His ability to play a young boy that struggles with his morals of being a Nazi youth and being the man of the house is a joy to watch… And to support him on this journey are a group of amazingly written characters. I would list them all, but I genuinely think that describing their performances would spoil the enjoyment of experiencing them yourself! However I must give a special mention to one character that stands out for me; JoJo’s best friend, Yorki, played so well by Archie Yates. Yorki is also a member of the Hitler Youth with JoJo, but unlike JoJo, Yorki is more naive than JoJo and his innocence leads to some of the funniest one-liners in the film.
I can’t do a review of the film without mentioning JoJo’s mother; Rosie Betzler, played by Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett’s performance in this film really is a beautiful thing to watch – I can’t think of any other words to describe it! Her character Rosie has to be both the mother and father of the house, as it’s established pretty early in the film that her husband, and father to JoJo, is away fighting in Italy in the war. Her way of supporting JoJo with his ambitions whilst also not fully backing the Nazi movement is a joy to watch.
…And this brings me to the Hitler in the room. And by that, I mean Taika’s own performance as JoJo’s imaginary friend, Hitler. Taika’s appearances in the film are used as both a comic relief and sometimes a sinister reminder of what the Nazi movement was actually about, and for me, it’s during the times when you’re reminded of the atrocities that Hitler supported and ordered that Taika’s performance really shined. He presents these in a way that a young naive boy would think of them, fed by Nazi propaganda.
So, my final thoughts on this movie. I think this film is a brilliant and at times moving portrayal of young innocence during awful times, and the way Takia has taken such a serious time in history and blended it on screen with satirical humour – and on top of that, balance it in such a way as to not mock those that died and suffered – makes the film an actual joy to watch. The supporting cast are used perfectly as both tension and comedy relief, and have brilliant scene-stealing moments of their own. My only real criticism of the movie is the over-use of Takia’s Hitler. There are moments in the film that his use for comedic effect isn’t really needed, as the actors in the scene could have carried it on their own.
So I give JoJo Rabbit: