December 20, 2019
A bullied 10-year-old makes imaginary friends with a cheeky Führer with no hilarious consequences in this schmaltzy satire
Jojo Rabbit review – Taika Waititis Hitler comedy is intensely unfunny
If you can imagine The Tin Drum converted into an insidiously sentimental satire-lite, you’ll have some idea of what this terrible film is like: a pointless Hitler-spoofy YA adventure with a 12A certificate, obtusely accentuating little-kid cuteness and optimism amid the quaintly imagined non-horror. It is adapted from the 2008 bestseller Caging Skies by Christine Leunens and directed by and starring the talented New Zealand comic Taika Waititi, who has written the adaptation. His vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows was great. But this is bland and misjudged.
We are in Germany, or possibly Austria, as defeat looms for the Axis powers. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a frightened little 10-year-old boy, just drafted into the Hitler Youth, pathetically eager to fit in but nicknamed “Jojo Rabbit” by all the cruel little Nazi bullies on a weekend camp, for his failure to prove his ruthlessness by killing a rabbit. A grenade accident at this same camp incapacitates Jojo out of the Hitler Youth, and so he gets to spend his days at an admin office run by Comedy Unthreatening Nazis: Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell) and Fräulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson). At home, he’s chivvied by his protective mum, Rosie (a mediocre and undirected performance from Scarlett Johansson). Jojo’s dad is away at the war, gone missing, and his sister is dead. Yet Jojo’s life is complicated when he realises his mother has been sheltering a teenage Jewish girl called Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. After a rocky start, the two tentatively make friends: like the mature soul that she is, Elsa sees through his Hitlerite bravado to the lonely, scared little child within.
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