Writer director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, JOJO RABBIT, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy (Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.
Plot: A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. What will he do? Ask his invisible friend Adolf Hitler for help.
Director: Taika Waititi
Aspect Ratio: 2.85:1
Runtime: 105 min
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Jojo Rabbit‘s blend of irreverent humor and serious ideas definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste — but either way, this anti-hate satire is audacious to a fault.
“This movie, one of the best of 2019, will steal your heart.”
Johannes “Jojo” Betzler is a young boy living in Nazi Germany during the last stages of World War II with his mother, Rosie. His father is supposedly serving on the Italian Front but has lost all contact so Jojo often talks with his imaginary friend, a supportive version of Adolf Hitler.
Now that he’s ten, it is time for Jojo to attends his first Hitler Youth training camp with his best friend, Yorki. The camp which is run by the one-eyed Wehrmacht Captain Klenzendorf is where Jojo receives his first knife. When Jojo is ordered to kill a rabbit by older Hitler Youth members he does the opposite and tries to release it. The older boys snap its neck, Jojo runs away and is taunted with the new nickname “Jojo Rabbit.” After a pep talk from Adolf, Jojo returns to the boys, stealing a grenade and throws it without permission to prove his bravery — it bounces off a tree and explodes at his feet, leaving him with facial scars and a slight limp.
After Jojo recovers from the accident, Rosie asks Klenzendorf (who was demoted after the incident,) to make her son feel included, despite his injuries. From here Jojo is given small tasks such as spreading propaganda leaflets throughout the town and collecting scrap metal for the war effort.
Alone at home one day, Jojo discovers Elsa Korr, a teenage Jewish girl hiding upstairs. Elsa reacts forcefully on their first encounter, pinning him against a wall and taking his knife. Jojo threatens to turn her over, but Elsa warns him that his mother would be killed for hiding her… even more, she threatens to kill him (cut off his Nazi head) if he tries to tell his mother. Intimidated and scared, Jojo agrees to keep her safe but asks her that she reveal her “Jew secrets” so he can write a book about Jews for Klenzendorf. Elsa plays along by making up stories about Jewish powers, such as mind-reading and sleeping from the ceiling.
As the two get to know each other Jojo forges a letter from “Nathan,” (Elsa’s fiancé) which claims that he has found someone else and wants to break up with her. Hearing her crying, he immediately writes another letter retracting the first one — showing for the first time that he cares about her, even though she’s a jew. Days later Jojo is home alone one day when the Gestapo visit his house to do a routine search. When the Gestapo discover Jojo’s missing knife they are suspicious of Jojo’s answer to how he lost it.
What happens next? You’ll need to check out the film to see it for yourself!
In conclusion —
I think you argue that this movie was one of the Cinderellas — a gem of last year’s movie season. The trailer gave a lot to digest and was even confusing (at least to me). Was this going to be a funny? Stupid? Serious? Heartbreaking? There was no way to tell — all you knew was that Taika Waititi was playing Hitler, the invisible friend of a wannabe-Nazi little german boy named Jojo.
What do I recommend? You have to go into this film light-heartedly, making sure to keep an open mind about what’s going on and how its unfolding on screen. If you go in thinking ‘Hitler-Nazi’s… this isn’t funny’ you will take yourself right out of the experience. What is happening? A young boy is transitioning from being a child into his true self with his own ideas and philosophies. Taika Waititi does this in a unique way that creates some uneasy, even risky tones, but what’s unfolding is through the eyes of a ten-year old boy. Like any child, all he knows is what’s being told to him and what he sees everyday in Germany.
You will see his growth as a person from what he initially thinks and does in the beginning about the ‘enemy’ living in his house up until the final scenes of the film. I think it will steal your heart if you give it a chance. Ultimately you may not think Jojo Rabbit is a great movie; I’ve seen some harsh reviews stating that this movie tries to be funny in it’s xenophobic moments, but it’s not because these issues are not in the past… they are still present today. If you want to dive that deep into this film, go for it, it’s your loss — beyond that, this is satirical storytelling everyone can enjoy if you give it a chance.
You will be glad you took the time to watch it.
Taking everything I’ve said into account, Jojo Rabbit gets my recommendation for an easy day-one purchase. Beyond the Blu-ray, there will be a 4K UHD edition available which has the ingredients to be great transfer, so do yourself a favor, grab a copy at your local retailer when it releases on 4K & Blu-ray February 18th. You won’t be disappointed.
Did you catch Jojo Rabbit in theater? Were you a fan of this movie? Will you be picking it up to own? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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