Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Sam Rockwell, Stephen Merchant, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Archie Yates
Runtime: 108 minutes
Have you ever lowered yourself to help someone tie their shoelaces? That gesture requires one to sort of bow down and lower themselves for someone else. It is like when Jesus washes His disciple’s feet to cleanse the dirty stains off to display His humility and servanthood. Likewise, in Taika Waititi’s newest film Jojo Rabbit, this recurring theme of tying someone else’s shoes and knotting those troublesome laces is to help those in need to begin their journey in life.
These heartwarming and kind moments infused throughout the film between all the dark humor lets us know where the heart of this movie truly lies underneath the mocking satire. Rather than causing a rift among others, it is the compassion and altruism of helping others that teach a lifelong important lesson to a young boy. The heart of this movie is about people loving and accepting and learning to think for themselves without having to just follow a group.
Taken place during World War II, Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a young boy living in Nazi Germany with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). While his father is away serving on the Italian Front, Jojo often talks to his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), who is quite supportive and goofy. After he goes to his first Hitler Youth training camp, one day at home, he discovers a young Jewish woman called Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) upstairs in the walls, realizing that his mother is providing a refuge for her. Because he happens to be a radical supporter of Hitler and thinks that Jews are monsters, he tries to find ways to get rid of her and negotiate terms with his ideals and situations.
What makes this film great is the right amount of balance between satirical comedy and moments of mournful reflection that gives Jojo Rabbit a sense of purpose and drive to the story. While there is a real war happening out there, Jojo’s internal battle with his soul takes place between Adolph on one side and Elsa and Rosie on the other. His influence from the training camp run by Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell) and Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson) teaches him to believe that Germany is the best country and that Jews are monsters that have the power to read other people’s mind. While his mother knows that underneath the uniform, swastika symbols, and Nazi salutes, she is doing what she could to show her son that she loves the country and bring back her child to grow into a young, noble gentleman.
Waititi has ‘assembled’ a ‘marvelous’ cast. Johansson brings one of her finest performances as a tender mother who graciously loves her son and generates compassion for others. Rockwell, Wilson and Stephen Merchant all bring out hilarious punchlines as various supporters of Hitler. Most of all, it is Roman Griffin Davis, as well as Thomasin McKenzie and the scene-stealing Archie Yates who are the most memorable. These young actors accomplish a fantastic job of portraying funny moments combined with a sense of discipline, sorrow, and anguish.
Taika Waititi, director of Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok, might be well-known nowadays for directing big blockbuster movies. But what makes him truly shine is when he directs smaller and more personal movies. Jojo Rabbit is essentially about teaching a young boy and the viewers valuable life lessons that get tied up, like a child’s shoelace, with a neat little bow.
Quirky, humorous, and heartwarming, Jojo Rabbit’s anti-hate satire about a ten-year-old boy who befriends Adolf Hitler is a bold film that hits hard through your core and allows for a great cinematic experience.