Jojo Rabbit review

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2020 kicks off in some style, with Jojo Rabbit arriving in UK cinemas – here’s our review.

‘I’m massively into swastikas so…’ It’s no exaggeration to say it’s hard to see anyone other than Taika Waiti making Jojo Rabbit. This is a film that is simultaneously hilarious, heartbreaking and scathing. Not to mention audacious. To have a film set during World War II, about a member of Hitler Youth (Jojo, played by Roman Griffin Davis) is one thing. To have Waititi himself playing Jojo’s imaginary best friend, Adolf Hitler, is another level. To have what occurs in this film, and how it all goes down, that’s another ball game entirely.

The film follows 10-year-old Jojo, a junior Nazi so committed to the ideology he is being described as a ‘fanatic’. His world is shaken when he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding Elsa, a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. It’s an incredible setup, although the film doesn’t necessarily work as well as Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople or What We Do In The Shadows. It crosses the boundary into bad taste a little and has tonal shifts that are whiplash-inducing in their suddenness.

However, when it comes together, it’s truly joyous. Describing these moments in any detail would spoil the delight of watching them occur, but there is some sweetness to counter the radical lunacy. Whilst some of this is courtesy of the story and dialogue, it’s the performances that make this film. Continuing the tradition of Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) in Hunt…, an excellent ensemble cast centres on an extraordinary performance by a child actor. Griffin Davis does a superb job in the title role. McKenzie, who stunned in the criminally underseen Leave No Trace, is a captivating counter to Jojo. Forced to become older than her years, living every moment in fear, she remains fierce and resolute. Or at least that’s how she seems to Jojo. Along for the ride is an excellent Johansson as Jojo’s loving mother, who brings depth to the quirk of her character. There’s also Sam Rockwell, providing us with another ‘racist with a heart of gold’ whilst channelling the oddball mentor he showcased so brilliantly in The Way, Way Back.

It would be remiss to not mention how great Waititi himself is as Hitler. As with the film itself, no one could do it as he does it. His Hitler is simultaneously incompetent and scheming, encouraging yet dominating, kind yet scary. Whilst set over 70 years ago, this anti-hate satire feels scarily relevant. The serious side of things is more than present and correct, but served with the lunacy and irreverence we expect from Waititi. The two things never counteract, but instead complement each other, serving a rallying cry against small-mindedness and self-mindedness and shallow-mindedness.

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