Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waititi has quickly risen up the ranks of directors that if they make a film, I will want to see it. I don’t even have to realign my values at any point. He already makes films that sound interesting to me, and then I find out he directed it and can get double happy! You know, like those rainbows!

Hunt for the Wilderpeople, his last movie before Thor: Ragnarok, made my top of the year list for 2016.

Now this title of Jojo Rabbit doesn’t scream out anything on its own. Knowing it is about Nazis in WW2 does…not also make anything clearer. Those people going into this movie with a blank slate are going to be quite shocked at what they have picked, but lets be honest, how many people do you think would go into a movie with this title without any advertising?

dinner
This screenshot really just raises more questions than it answers.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is 10 years old, it is 1945, and he loves Hitler! Oh, he is also blonde haired, blue eyed, and in Germany as a German. He has grown up entirely in the Nazi hype, and hasn’t known anything besides the Third Reich.

His mother (Scarlett Johansson) is basically raising him on her own, as his father was sent off for the war effort years ago and is somewhere in Italy. He hasn’t been heard from in a few years, so he might be dead, maybe he ran away, who knows. But with his mom working, Jojo is alone most of the time. Sure he has a sort of best friend, Yorki (Archie Yates), but his real best friend is Hitler (Taika Waititi). Or at least his imaginary friend version who tells him how to be a man and how to live his life so he can please his family and friends.

He joins the Hitler Youth war effort. He dons the uniform. He gets a job and volunteers the best he can do at home. And yet, is it enough? Is his mom pleased?

Oh, and eventually he finds that there is a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his house, with his mom’s permission. What is he to do? Turn her in? That would get his mom in trouble. No, he should study her, and maybe publish a book on his Jew findings.

Also starring Alfie Allen, Rebel Wilson, Sam Rockwell, and Stephen Merchant.

Jew!
Ah! Jew behind you!

Jojo Rabbit is an unapologetic look at German youth during the final year of WW2. Why is it unapologetic? Well, it has nothing to apologize for. It should be noted first and right away this movie is not trying to glorify Nazi culture or upbringing in anyways. It isn’t trying to say there are fine people on both sides.

It does however highlight that people who were involved could be involved because they know nothing else, which sure, is true. It wants us to know about the German resistance groups who were killed trying to protect others, even when the country was clearly about to lose. Those in power wanted to “win at all costs” even if it meant taking out its citizens and throwing them in the path of the bullets.

Now obviously this is not a historical non-fiction story, but it does tell a unique story. The Jewish girl isn’t a magical other force to make Jojo see the wrongness of the actions, but just a piece of his own growth.

Every scene between Davis and Johansson was wonderful, especially the dinner scene, and one of the scenes in the middle. There was so much sadness in Johnasson’s character over her inability as a single parent to raise her boy the way she knew was right for fear of death for her and her family.

It is a powerful story about overcoming everything you have ever believed in, in the face of overwhelming evidence that you are wrong. It is a movie that tells us that people can change for the better.

And let’s not forget, Waititi is himself part Jewish, and that is why he decided to play Hitler. He figured it was the biggest insult he could give to an evil man.

3 out of 4.

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