January 7, 2020

JoJo Rabbit (2019)

Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson

Satire is a tricky beast. Hit it too hard and the joke becomes stale. Don't hit it hard enough and it's not recognizable as satire in the first place. Too much of it and the audience gets bored. This movie strikes precisely the right balance between all of those points.

I'll be honest: I wasn't super looking forward to this. Yes, Taika Waititi is a genius. Yes, the previews were mildly funny. But right now? In this political climate? Joking about Hitler? No thanks.

But this is where the film is brilliant. It is over-the-top enough so that no rational human could somehow take away the wrong message. It's not glorifying or even making light of the destruction of the Nazis, despite the numerous moments of levity. Does Waititi play a caricature version of Hitler? Yes. But do you like Hitler more because of it? Of course not. The story is intended to be seen through the eyes of a Nazi youth, so it tracks that much of the actual horror of the war and Germany's role in those would remain virtually unseen.

This movie has a depth to it not shown by the previews, the poster, or really any of the promotional material. It's a sneaky depth, that draws you in and pulls emotions you weren't expecting to have in a satirical war movie. It was risky, I'm sure, to hide all the best bits for the people who actually watch the film, but made the pay off that much sweeter. Because for those who are willing to take a chance of what looks like a funny Hitler movie, they are rewarded with a touching not-quite-coming of age story about a boy learning to decipher the world around him.

Final word: No joke, this movie is deeply enjoyable.

Bonus plus: Everyone in this movie, including actors I normally don't enjoy, like Rebel Wilson, are good. Even the kid is brilliant! All the kids!

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