Writer and director Taika Waititi, best known for his work on Thor: Ragnorak, brings us his satirical dark comedy-drama based during the time of World War II. In the movie, a 10-year-old Nazi-obsessed boy discovers a Jewish girl hiding in his own home.
The two words “Nazi” and “comedy” rarely come hand in hand, especially in today’s political context. With the rise of Nazi supporters making themselves infamously known, these words really do live up to these titles.
The 1 hour and 48-minute movie starts off with the catchy tune of The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” sung adorably by German children and played alongside a collage of real-life clips of Adolf Hitler being cherished and worshipped by millions less than a century ago. This scene oddly put me and other viewers in a good mood despite the fact that the movie is portraying one of the most infamous mass murderers in a positive light. We are then introduced to our main character, Jojo Betzler, played by the surprisingly talented and charming Roman Griffin Davis. We quickly discover he is a Nazi fanatic and has posters of Hitler lining his room in a way similar to a teenage girl doing the same for the latest boyband-heartthrob.
Hitler, played by none other than TaikaWaititi, has a side role as Jojo’s imaginary friend who appears only in times of trouble to give terribly hilarious advice. He’s a mixture of mischief, witty comebacks, and the occasional friend giving encouragement. He’s the villain we expect to hate but oddly enough come to enjoy.
Upon meeting the Jew living in the walls of his house, Jojo is initially petrified. As the young Nazis-in-training explains, they have no idea how to differentiate Jews from “normal people,” but still see them as purely money-hungry creatures who drink the blood of innocents and always smell like brussel sprouts. As the tide turns and the movie develops, Jojo starts to build a relationship with Elsa, played by the beautiful Thomasin McKenzie, and starts to realize Jews aren’t as bad as Hitler made them out to be.
Scarlett Johannesen plays Rosie, Jojo’s charming and lioness-type mother who’s the perfect combination of serious yet playful with a big heart and lots of room to love everyone. She’s a character that you connect with from the beginning and somehow grow to love even more toward the end of the film. The great ensemble is rounded out with Academy award-winning actor Sam Rockwell who plays Captain Klenzendorf, the one-eyed Nazi camp counselor who’s wondering why there’s a war in the first place – and actress Rebel Wilson is Frau Rahm, the hilarious assistant camp counselor who’s job is to encourage girls to carry beautiful Aryan babies who can grow up to be helpful Nazis.
The story takes a turn about halfway through the movie as the end of the war nears and Jojo starts to realize that Fascism maybe isn’t the best idea for everyone. Creating a bond with a Jew helped him in understanding that all humans are equal and to give everyone a chance, even if you’ve been brainwashed by angry Nazis for a decade of your life.
To dance is to be free and to be free is to dance. This theme is major throughout the movie as dancing is what the strong female leads consider to be the greatest joy and remedy to all the hate that’s in their world. It’s what gives us hope during a time where we could all use some.
Jojo Rabbit made me laugh at something that I never thought I’d be laughing at – but that’s what made it feel even better. The anti-Semitism throughout the film is intentionally exposed and shown in a way to be made fun of, and I thought the description of Jews was downright hilarious, rather than outrageous. I fell in love with all of the “good guys” and some of my favorite moments were of Jojo always randomly running into his chubby little Nazi friend, Yorki, as they casually shared a loving hug and spoke briefly about their day.
Yorki gives probably the most adorable lines in the whole movie starting with, “I’m just a kid in a fat kid’s body” and ending with “I guess I’ll go home to cuddle with my mama” right after finding out the Nazis are done for.
I loved everything about the film from the slightly vintage, yellow-tint it was shot in, to the sad yet happy realistic ending that brings the movie back down to reality. All the characters, including the antagonists, have their moments of hilarity and I never would have thought I’d get such a hard laugh from a movie concerning the heavy subject that is the Holocaust. It’s almost as shocking that a movie like this was even made in the world of Hollywood given our current circumstances, but I’m glad it was. Although it is an acquired taste, I hope the film does shed light for some people and shows them something they can think about long after the movie is done showing in theaters.