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Drama/ Comedy/ War
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Upon its cinema (remember them?) release JoJo Rabbit got some criticism, not least from Peter Bradshaw- on terrific form moaning and being a pretentious misery about things. I know I moan about things but as I always say, I’m right and Peter Bradshaw is wrong. The film was a tenner to buy on Amazon prime which is a bit steep with all the free stuff available too. I reasoned that although pricey it’s about the same as going to the cinema and a lot less effort/ COVID-y.
I coughed up hoping Peter Bradshaw was wrong. Of course he was fucking wrong*.
This is lifted from IMDb, but I’ll use it to set the tone.
When Taika Waititi who is Maori/Jewish, was asked about why he chose to play the role of Adolf Hitler, he said "The answer's simple, what better 'fuck you' to the guy?"
Yes JoJo Rabbit is zany, weird and covers difficult subject matter fleetingly, never dwelling. I can understand why some people might find that flippant and disrespectful. Alienation, hatred, identity, war and racism are a lot to fit in a 12A and why not find some funny doing it. I’m a firm believer in rummaging around in the darkness, in difficult times, and using humour as a gateway to understanding them.
Taika Waititi directs, adapted the screenplay from Christine Leunens’ novel and also plays young, indoctrinated JoJo’s best friend: Adolf Hitler. It’s not the real Hitler, of course, he wasn’t available due to a prior engagement being a pile of hateful ash nobody misses. This Hitler is only in JoJo’s imagination, a kind of corrosive spirit guide. He’s the proverbial devil on JoJo’s shoulder and supplies some of the film’s funniest moments.
JoJo Rabbit is riddled with some excellently witty lines, which given the speed of the film and the actors’ wonderful timing sometimes fly by before you’ve fully taken them in. This is not a criticism, a rewatch will likely delight with missed or half remembered moments of mirth. There are elements of many things all blended together which give it its unique identity. Even the genuinely threatening battle scenes have some oddball humour in them.
The cast is excellent, presumably all actors not having to be talked into taking the part given Waititi has so far been the main creative force behind the wonderful What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and most recently what is probably my favourite Marvel entry: Thor: Ragnarok.
Sam Rockwell stands out, goofy and camp as Nazi Captain Klenzendorf. Rebel Wilson does what Rebel Wilson does but I like what Rebel Wilson does and Tomasin McKenzie is excellent as the driving point for JoJo’s personal journey through racism, a teenage Jewish girl he finds hidden away in his attic called Elsa. She’s (narratively speaking) the angel to Waititi’s Hitler/ Devil influence on JoJo.
My biggest complaint is that Stephen Merchant is criminally underused and Scarlett Johansson appears too. Perhaps even the biggest name in the cast; she’s barely in it, which is a shame. None of that took the shine off the film though. JoJo Rabbit might not be for everyone, but it is definitely for me.
Straddling comedy as well as engaging, and at times moving, drama with just a little fantasy; JoJo Rabbit captures childlike innocence in a way that is not off putting to adults. I have been annoyed by more than one “coming of age” type which only engaged at a child’s level. JoJo Rabbit is unlike anything I have seen for a while and was well worth the £10. 8/10
*I will concede he was bang on about 1917, it’s a terrific film. God that hurt.
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