Movie Review: Jojo Rabbit
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Director: Taika Waititi
by Jason Koenigsberg
Mel Brooks and Wes Anderson are two of the greatest comedic filmmakers of all time. Their brilliance in satire and visual style stemming from their ingenious minds have yielded some of the funniest and best crafted motion pictures of the past fifty years. Taika Waititi has a long ways to go before he earns the same respect as those two brilliant auteurs. To date his finest film is Thor: Ragnarok (2017) which is a far cry from Mel Brooks or Wes Anderson’s best movies. Taika Waititi apes both of them for his latest film Jojo Rabbit which tries to have the themes of a Mel Brooks movie, while mimicking the style of Wes Anderson’s pictures. The result is basically Moonrise Kingdom (2012) with Nazis, or the happiest and cuddliest World War II movie you will ever see.
The film opens up with quick cuts of shots of a young boy putting on his Nazi youth uniform which looks a lot like something a Boy Scout would wear. Right away Jojo Rabbit is reminiscent of a Wes Anderson picture with the colors, sets, and costumes. I know that movies are hard work and take a long time to make, sometimes years and costing millions of dollars so I do not say this lightly but, ANYBODY could have made Jojo Rabbit. That is to say anybody that has access to the means to finance a film through Fox Searchlight, loves and admires the films of Wes Anderson and Mel Brooks and has seen a lot of their movies numerous times, and could cast talented actors such as Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson, then they could have made this movie. Jojo Rabbit tries so hard to be simultaneously subversive and cute and fails at both. This movie is never offensive which it tries to be in the early scenes with the boys singing, dancing imaginary Hitler friend. It ends up feeling just stupid when the laughs fail and sentimental when the scenes work which the latter half of the movie salvages making Jojo Rabbit watchable and almost entertaining… almost. There was also an over reliance on repetition with the mentality that if you repeat the same thing enough, eventually it is funny. I will just say that Jojo Rabbit may hold the record for the most times “Heil Hitler” is said in an American movie under two hours.
Taika Waititi does illustrate some talent as a writer and director, not so much as an actor, he plays the imaginary Hitler which is just comic relief that falls flat. The performances from the children mainly the leads Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie are well done and the child actors carry some of the best scenes in the movie. The rest of the little kids are cute and they get the job done in that department. Scarlett Johansson plays the main character’s mother who is hiding a secret from him that is better left unsaid, and she is terrific, easily the best performance of the movie displaying inner conflict to steer her son in the right direction during a crazy time. Plus, Jojo Rabbit explores the dehumanizing of the Jewish people and the World War II experience through the eyes of a German child. That is something that that no other movie I can recall has done before onscreen and for that Jojo Rabbit deserves some credit. One would only wish the director had an original style and did not want to cater to audiences and not offend them with jokes that feel as safe as a toy commercial. Perhaps if the film went in the complete opposite direction and tried to be a savage satire that pulled out all the stops and did not care if it was offensive then I might be singing a different tune about Jojo Rabbit. But alas, this movie is a product of its time and not one that will stand the test of time.
Skip Jojo Rabbit and check out a Wes Anderson picture such as Moonrise Kingdom which this film blatantly copied, or better yet The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) which was Wes Anderson’s comedic satire on WWII and how it effected future generations. It is smarter, funnier, and more subtle than even the best moments of Jojo Rabbit.