Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell
Directed by Taika Waititi
Written by Christine Leunens (Novel) and Taika Waititi (Screenplay)
Jojo Rabbit is loosely adapted from Christine Leunens’s novel ‘Caging Skies’. The story unfolds during the Third Reich’s final days, when 10-year-old Jojo Betzler (Griffin Davis) dreams of fighting for the Nazi regime. What appeals to Jojo is the thought of spending time with Hitler himself – and for the time being, he makes do with an imaginary-friend version, played by Waititi. The story looks at the home life of Jojo, his relationship with his mother (Johansson) and the discovery of the young Jewish girl that his mother is hiding from the Nazi’s.
This is a very specific style of movie, straight away some people will love it and others wont. I expected to enjoy this film but not be blown away and that’s where I landed. The trailer expresses humour that feels somewhat tongue in cheek but is bizarrely appealing; to see how a brilliantly funny and creative director might push some boundaries of what is acceptable to mock while still dealing with one of the biggest atrocities in the worlds history.
Visually the film is great; it’s easy to follow, artistic and vibrant perhaps in a way which most war time films are not. This emphasises the childhood innocence of our lead character and helps to carry some of the humour through the story. My main issue is that, although I personally enjoyed a lot of the jokes, the majority are at the beginning of the story. I found myself watching and waiting for the next punchline or absurdly amusing situation rather than allowing myself to connect with the characters. As the story takes a more serious tone I found myself desiring that connection which, therefore, impacted my reaction to the rest of film.
Any negative press, for the most part, has been about how the film fails to cut to the dark heart of the matter around how Jews (amongst others) were treated and the light-hearted approach which simply dabbles with the atrocities of the third reich. I understand these feelings but can also see very clear creative choices in doing this – whether everyone warms to it or not. I was uncertain when I first heard about the movie’s age rating, I thought that a 12A would naturally limit what they could express on camera, which obviously it does, but actually think that allowing a slightly younger audience into the experience might actually be of benefit, to encourage education around the importance of loving each other and caring for people who you might not understand or are different to you.
My rating is down to my personal enjoyment of this film. It really is one to watch and make up your own mind. I would advise watching the trailer and attempting to grasp whether this particular style of film and humour is one that you would enjoy. If you find that you don’t enjoy the film stylistically, then there are definitely still specific moments or performances that you might find entertaining and fulfilling.