Rebel Wilson

11: Jojo Rabbit Review

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Recently, we have had a bit of a resurgence of people talking about comedy, and what is okay and not okay to joke about anymore. The main philosophy I go by with my style of comedy is that you can make a joke about anything, but if you can't make a joke about something dicey and “hot button” in nature funny, then don't do the joke. Many of the shock jock comedians complain about the current climate while having no sense of irony that they get paid millions for specials to spew shock humor. These are the same types of comedians that die by the wayside due to not being able to grow as comedians. I tend to find my favorite comedy individuals to be able to grow, expand, and still be funny and creative, while not punching down on other races and cultures. 

I bring this up, because so many film fans cry about how you can't make a Mel Brooks-style comedy today, but don't get the context and commentary that people like Mel Brooks use in their films. You can make a Mel Brooks-style comedy today, but you would have to make it work in today's climate. Many of the most iconic comedies and films are made in a time and place that just so happen to have the right people and the right kind of humor for its time. It's why so many of us were excited about today's review, Jojo Rabbit, a film written, produced, and directed by Taika Waititi. 

We follow a 10-year-old boy named Jojo Betzler, played by Roman Griffin Davis. He's a boy growing up in Germany during World War II, and is learning how to be a Nazi. He idolizes the ways of Hitler to the point of having an imaginary friend version of Hitler, played by Taika Waititi himself. However, while idolizing the views of the Nazi party, he's not really into it. One day, Jojo finds out that his mother Rosie Betzler, played by Scarlett Johansson, is hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa Korr, played by Thomasin McKenzie, inside their house. While despising her because of the propaganda he has been fed, he slowly starts to bond with the girl, and starts to question his ethics. 


So, let's talk about the elephant in the room, the commentary and how it handles the Nazi party. Are we looking at a The Great Dictator, Dr. Strangelove, and the original The Producers, or are we looking at a Skin situation? Well, the good news is that we are on the side of the former. It’s more of a Wes Anderson-style film. While there is plenty to talk about with how Taika takes the power away from the Nazi individuals you see in the film, including how he portrays Hitler as this bratty 10-year-old version of what the boy thinks of the infamous individual, a lot of the heart and focus of the story is more about the dynamics Jojo has with his mother, the girl, and how he interacts with people, like Sam Rockwell's Captain Klenzendorf. It is a smart comedic drama that, like The Death of Stalin, does not shy away from the fact that this group of people did horrible things. 

 By this description of the film, it sounds like this would be a tonally challenging film, and yeah, I can understand that. When you have a film that balances out the mature subject material, but has a healthy dose of witty writing and comedy, it could easily be a mess. Luckily, this is Taika, and I found the balance to be great. It pulls back the humor too when it's needed, and it never felt like he had to force a joke into a scene that did not need it. I liked how he handled the characters. I think everyone is well defined and has layers to them. I know it's easy to see someone like Rockwell playing yet another racist character in such a short amount of time, but his character is more like a guy who's not enjoying himself and is trying to play tough. In a lot of ways, that is how Taika portrays everyone in the Nazi party, as a bunch of try-hard blowhards who are putting on a facade in a war they will soon be losing dramatically. Again, a lot of the time is spent upon Jojo and Elsa, and while it's not a Moonrise Kingdom-style romance, it's a story that shows a strong bond between the two kids that have grown up in different worlds. 


 Jojo Rabbit was a delightful experience that I was fortunate enough to see at Fantastic Fest. It might not be for everyone, and I will not be shocked if you watch this film and not enjoy it, but I highly recommend checking it out at least once when it comes out in October. If you want Fox Searchlight, the distributor behind Jojo Rabbit to stay in a stable condition under the house of mouse, then supporting projects like this is going to be the right thing to do. It’s an experience unlike any other film this year, and I would definitely Play It Again!

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