The Reel Review

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Jojo Rabbit is a World War II anti-hate satire about Jojo, a lonely German boy and aspiring Nazi whose world is upended when he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their home. An utterly horrified, wide-eyed Jojo takes solace in confiding in his goofy imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (writer/director Taika Waititi) as he gradually gets to know (and like) his secret houseguest.

On the surface, this wildly unusual comedy about one of the world’s great tragedies easily could have gone off the rails into tastelessness, but Waititi brilliantly blends his hysterical, off-beat humor with a sweet, exuberant optimism to expose the ridiculousness of racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism by showing it through the eyes of a naive little boy. This is a wonderfully subversive, thought-provoking film about the importance of learning to think for oneself, especially when it goes against the masses. And while it has loads of laughs, it does have some gut punches.

Wildly irreverent humor, a rousing score from Michael Giacchino (Star Trek Beyond, Up, The Incredibles) and exceptional casting makes this film a sheer delight. Roman Griffin Davis, in his big screen debut, is perfect as sweet Jojo. Our multitasking writer/director Waititi, as Jojo’s imaginary buffoonish Hitler, is so laugh out loud hysterical, you’ll find yourself yearning for more imaginary führer (chew on that for a minute) and Johansson is a heartbreaker as Jojo’s überwise mother, Rosie. The rest – hidden Jewish houseguest Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace), Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Vice) as the goofball captain with a sweet side (and a secret), and Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, Isn’t It Romantic) as idiotic Fraulein Rahm – all nail it. And then there is newcomer Archie Yates, who steals every scene he is in, as Jojo’s  subtly hilarious “second best” friend.  This easily will be one of the best films of 2019 and is destined to become a classic.

REEL FACTS

• Taika Waititi, who is Maori/Jewish, says casting himself as the idiotic imaginary Adolf Hitler was the ultimate “F*ck You” to the evil WWII dictator.

• Waititi wrote the screenplay for Jojo Rabbit in 2011, prior to his breakout film, What We Do In The Shadows. He says he wrote it as a tribute to his mother and single parents everywhere.

• Roman Griffin Davis’ younger brothers Gilby and Hardy play Nazi clones in Jojo Rabbit.

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