Jojo Rabbit Review: Waititi’s anti-hate satire is one part hilarious, one part meaningful, and a whole lot of heart
Fresh off his success in the MCU with Thor: Ragnarök, writer/director Taika Waititi goes in a much bolder and funnier direction with his anti-hate satire, Jojo Rabbit.
While most young boys are fans of superheroes, toys, cartoon characters, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is total fanatic for Nazis. Living in the WWII era of Germany, Jojo dreams of fighting for the Third Reich by attending a Nazi training camp, dressing up in his SS uniform, and even has Adolf Hitler (Waititi) as his imaginary best friend. However, after he can’t survive a hazing ritual at camp where he couldn’t kill a rabbit, causing other campers to mock him by calling him “Jojo Rabbit” and he suffers a terrible accident, his dreams of impressing the real Adolf are crushed. What’s even more surprising to him is that his good-hearted mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been harboring a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) within their walls. After talking to and understanding the young Jewish girl, though, Jojo is caught between two worlds and is forced to decide where his morals lie – with the Nazis and Adolf or with his mother and genuine human love.
You know, this will probably be the first time that anything that Adolf Hitler does will make you laugh because Waititi is absolute comedic gold from start to finish. Every time Waititi’s cartoony and over the top depiction of the leader of the Third Reich came into frame, I immediately got the biggest grin on my face. He delivers such a sassy and satirical depiction that’ll constantly keep you laughing and is a great foil to Jojo’s mother. Honestly, everyone is absolutely hilarious throughout the film and there’s a genuine satirical innocence that can be felt throughout. Johansson especially gives such a positively driven performance that’s easily one of the best of her career. The way she always tries to treat Jojo with love and respect, despite her disagreeing with his views and fanaticism for the Nazis, is incredibly admirable and she easily snuggles her way into viewer’s hearts.
The real standout, though, definitely comes in the form of the youngest Nazi fanatic to hit the big screen as Davis gives a performance full of confidence with the perfect amount of childhood innocence. Jojo is actually a very complex character as his love for the Nazis kind of makes sense as he’s born into this ideology and its sort of all he knows. Because of how dominant the Nazi party had over the ideology of Germany it’s makes sense that Jojo would have such blind fanaticism and see Hitler as such a strong guiding force for him. Not to mention, this is such a unique perspective on the Nazi party that leads to both some comedic and touching moments. This perspective is actually the backbone to makes Jojo Rabbit such a compelling story about redemption and upbringing.
At the heart of Jojo Rabbit is a story about understanding, change, and basic human love and Waititi pulls no punches in telling it. As much as the film makes you laugh and showcases its childlike immaturity, it equally hits hard with some strongly tense moments and heartbreaking arcs that make it much more than a comedy. From the conversations that Jojo and McKenzie’s Elsa have about their families and personal lives to the internal struggles Jojo faces as Germany loses the war and he begins to doubt what Adolf is telling him, there’s a lot of deep compassion and genuine love that arises from Jojo’s story. Not to mention, his mother’s arc is one of the most surprising and strongest of the film and it literally had my theater gasping and moved to tears by the end. Honestly, the film as a whole really hits these strong beats that perfectly make their anti-hate themes really impactful.
There was even a redemption arc that I didn’t expect and that was a little strange when it initially happened. The character, which I won’t spoil, definitely showcases that they aren’t exactly fit to the Nazi code and that they are little different, but it did feel like Waititi only included this arc to continue Jojo’s story. Even if this arc could’ve been a little better handled, though, it’s one of the most memorable moments of the film and still lands a strong emotional blow. The biggest swell of emotion definitely comes with the ending, though, as it contains both the kind-hearted humor that Waititi is known for as well as a satisfying conclusion that will put viewers at ease. It nicely wraps up Jojo’s story in a perfect bow and what transcends the film to be one of my favorites this year.
When it comes down to it, Jojo Rabbit is one half the hilarious strong humor that Waititi is known for, one half a strong anti-hate satire that encompasses the ever-growing war between love and hate, and a whole emotional swell that will touch any viewer’s hearts. It’s an instant classic that bluntly explores where most films won’t go and offers the laughs and hardships that can surely win over most, if not all, that see it.