These days it seems we live in a world of political correctness gone wild. A world where one poor choice of words can destroy a career, where disrespect can brand you a social pariah. And in a world like this it is often the comedy genre which finds itself falling under particular scrutiny. Films and tv shows now have to tread very carefully, to assure that no offence is taken and to assure that their product doesn’t become another victim of online attacks from progressive groups. So I find it particularly refreshing when a film comes out that actually dares to raise a middle finger to PC factions and tell the story of a young boy, who also happens to be a devoted Nazi.
Set in the later stages of the Second World War, Taika Waititi’s dark comedy JoJo Rabbit, follows a young boy (played by Roman Griffin Davis) who longs to join the Nazi movement and become best friends with Adolf Hitler, who also just happens to be his imaginary friend. However, JoJo finds his life being turned upside down when he discovers a Jewish girl living within the crawl space of his home, making him question everything he has ever believed. What may sound like a quite an ‘out-there’ premise, and one that could be poorly handled by the wrong creative team, is brought to life here by Waititi and his cast of superb actors. Telling a story about fascism and conformity through the eyes of a child opens the door for the film to deliver both a heart-breaking message and some amazingly well-performed comedic sequences, which make you care and even adore a little boy who is constantly dreaming of one day joining a regime known to have killed thousands. Some part of you may feel bad about watching this film and laughing your head off, but the way the film is made makes you brush off that concern in seconds. In many ways this film recalled British comedy gems such as Dad’s Army, albeit a version told from the POV of the opposing side (in terms of war and generation.)
Roman Griffin Davis delivers a strong and nomination-worthy performance, particularly when considering the range of emotion he has to convey in such a short amount of runtime. Beyond our main star we have director Waititi portraying an eccentric incarnation of one of history’s most infamous monsters and Scarlett Johansson who truly delivers a truly beautiful performance in this film. Honestly Johansson’s performance here truly reminded me of why she is one of the best actors working in the industry today (and you better believe I’m ready for Black Widow) because her performance is beyond layered. Not only is she playing a loving mother frustrated by her son’s extremist views, she is also playing a silent hero, doing all she can to end the war for good. Truly a perfect performance. The supporting cast also revel in the absurdity of their roles, with Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson particularly shining.
Waititi’s direction and screenplay also add another quirky layer to the film, with the witty dialogue and heart-felt moments shinning through when needed. The beautiful cinematography also gives this film a quaint and (dare I say) cosy feel. Recalling summer coming of age stories and replicating the idyllic European countryside in wonderfully constructed shots. In some instances the film also reminded me a lot of the Mel Brooks library of film, with its dark comedy and social satire. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brooks himself came forward and claimed this film to be one of his favourites of the year, I really wouldn’t.
Overall JoJo Rabbit delivers laughs and sobs, coming together to create a movie that relishes in its taboo subject matter, finishing a product that not only makes you laugh at the darker parts of our history, but also leaves you a little heart-broken by the bittersweet ending and message.