Jojo Rabbit Review

January 14, 2020

I have been excited for Jojo Rabbit since the teaser trailer was released this summer.  I love a good World War 2 movie as much as the next guy, but this one in particular had me dying for its release.  It isn’t often that we get a film that comes from the Nazi’s point of view, and especially difficult to get one that is well done.  Jojo Rabbit tells the story of Jojo, a 10-year-old boy and Nazi fanatic living in Germany late in the war.  He and his imaginary friend and personal idol Adolf Hitler navigate their utopian paradise and live merrily with Jojo’s mother.  That is, until Jojo discovers his mother has been harboring a Jewish girl, much to the dismay of Jojo. The rest of the movie follows Jojo as he tries to make sense of the world that has had its image newly disrupted.  The plot is never predictable, and it twists and turns in harsh ways that keep you guessing and entertained. When the movie does slow down, it is done well so that you aren’t bored, rather contemplative. Despite the film’s serious subject matter, it has comedy throughout that never fails to entertain.  

That is part of what makes this movie work so well.  It has a very serious subject matter and an important message, but it waits to show you what that is.  It lulls you into a false sense of security by constantly making you laugh and keeping you happy, then it drops some feel bombs on you when you have your guard down.  This method is very effective as it forces you to take the messages at face value rather than padding them with lots of buildup. The scenes that you will remember the next day are the ones that drastically change the tone from light-hearted to serious.  Just because the comedy is meant to accentuate the serious parts of the film doesn’t mean that it was ham-fisted, however. The comedy is very funny and clever, more so than most dedicated comedy movies can achieve. It helps the movie keep a good balance of well thought out comedy and a deep and important message.  

The other thing that I love about this movie is how the character of Hitler is used.  As absurd as it sounds, Hitler was my favorite character in the beginning of the movie.  He is so charismatic and hilarious at the start, he’ll have you pining for the scenes where he makes an appearance.  As the film goes on and Jojo learns more and more about what being a Nazi really means and what Jewish people are really like, Adolf becomes more and more unlikable.  All leading up to the point where, WWII spoiler warning, he blows his brains out and abandons the country he led into war. In his final scene he is a complete tool, screaming at the 10 year old Jojo and trying to get him to give his life for his country.  You will hate him. This is an intentional move by the directors. The idea that anyone would follow someone like Hitler and what he teaches seems like such an absurd concept. By making Hitler likable, it puts you into the same position as Jojo and really makes fun of everything you know.  You have to grow with Jojo and learn to hate Hitler, rather than just having it be something that is known.  

Overall, the message of this movie is one that is very serious and that it illustrates well.  It has comedy, not to draw audiences and make sure the trailers look good, but to bolster the more serious themes and ideas.  It also does a fantastic job of putting the audience in the shoes of the main character, something that is extremely important with a movie of this subject matter.  It is one of my top movies of 2019, and I believe that it will become a cult classic with the likes of Schindler’s List and Broken.

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