Film Review: Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waititi’s gentle satire Jojo Rabbit delivers its message with a humour and a surprising amount of heart. 

Young Jojo is a member of the Hitler Youth. Living in Germany towards the end of World War II, Jojo’s best friend is an imaginary Adolf Hitler. When Jojo makes a discovery, he must confront his blind nationalism…

Written and directed by Taika Waititi, based on the book by Christine Leunens, Jojo Rabbit lampoons nationalism and extremism in an entertaining manner. The film focuses on a young German boy during World War II, as he tries to reconcile his loyalty to Hitler with a less extreme view of the world. 

Despite being sold as a satire on hate, the film is rather gentle in its ribbing. This is not a film brimming with razor sharp wit. Instead Jojo Rabbit is primarily a story of a young boy learning his hate is misplaced. The message that the film proffers is certainly one to be applauded. Jojo comes to a slow and natural realisation. Waititi draws the obvious parallels between Nazi Germany and current affairs. 

There is plenty of humour present in Jojo Rabbit. The comedy is mostly gentle, although there are belly laughs to be had. What is surprising about the film is how sad it is on occasion. There are a couple of times when the laughs subside and the picture is quite dark. Waititi presents these moments in a heartfelt manner; they do not feel out of place as the film earns these emotional moments. 

Roman Griffin Davis is good as Jojo. It is the supporting cast who stand out, however. Waititi makes a very humorous Hitler, while Scarlett Johansson brings tenderness as Rosie. Thomasin McKenzie is good, as are Sam Rockwell and Archie Yates. Music is used to get effect, as the filmmaker has done in his previous films. 

Jojo Rabbit is not the cutting satire that some may expect. Nevertheless, it is a warmly humorous and very enjoyable. 

Jojo Rabbit is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019. 

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