Maintaining a fine line between making a joke and still showing respect for the tragic history that was WWII, Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” is a curious look at what children face at times of war. The movie follows a ten-year-old boy Johannes ( Roman Griffin) wanting to be the best Nazi soldier in Hitlers’ army. To help him through his journey and give him important advice in times of anxious situations, he has an imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler.
Based on the novel “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens — Played by the director himself Hitler seems to be the most realistic and absurd character at the same time. When we think of Hitler now, many are disgusted and many are afraid, but none will find him humorous: the movie sets out to change that. Jojo’s worst instinct comes from being raised under the teaching of Hitler’s beliefs and he makes Hitler his imaginary friend to keep himself in check because in his core he is not evil; he is just ten.
Johannes a sensitive, smart, and ordinary child growing up in a small town Germany with his mom under constant Nazi propaganda and Nazi youth culture. He makes his imaginary friend Hitler an emotional support figure, a friend who shares all his insecurities.
After joining the Hitler youth day camp he is bullied and teased for his inability to kill a rabbit and thus mockingly given the nickname Jojo Rabbit. He is not alone, however, sharing the journey with him is his second-best friend (second to imaginary Hitler) Yorki. Perhaps the most adorable character in the movie, Yorki (Archie Yates) is always present when Jojo needs someone to talk to and receive a hug.
All is not lost, Jojo’s mother Rosie (Scarlet Johansson) is very kindhearted and immune to the Nazi propaganda around her. She tries to teach Jojo empathy and show a world where kids are not being prepared for war. As the movie progresses the audience and Jojo find out exactly how opposed to the war she is, however she is not able to change Jojos’ point of view.
Jojo and his imaginary friend Hitler running to conquer the world – JOJO RABBIT
Jojo’s sensitive side starts pouring through when he meets Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), a Jewish teenage girl with artistic inclinations whom Rosie has hidden in a crawl space in their house. Jojo is seen to be resentful, fearful, and possessive of Elsa. His battle within starts to show when finding a Jewish girl and not thinking of her as an enemy the way he was taught to. The relationship between them develops his innocence and decency, characteristics his imaginary friend Hitler heavily disapproves of.
Although the movie has plenty of humor with cartoonish characters, it is not without its serious moments. When Jojo finds his mother hung from a tree in the middle of the town the audience is reminded of the ethical urgency.
The movie used a variety of tones to make the darkest parts funny with sharp humor. Time and again we see how the worst event in history and the most terrifying man in history can seem foolish and impractical to a ten-year-old.
Near the end of the movie when Germany is being attacked from all sides Jojo meets with Yorki where he is informed Hitler committed suicide and that “It is definitely not a good time to be a Nazi,” he realizes the error of Hitlers’ ways and in the end how powerless he was.
Why make a movie of this sort? During an interview with Trevor Noah Jewish director and actor who played Hitler, Taika Waititi revealed “I have never really seen films with a backdrop of conflict or wars really from a child’s point of view and I really wanted to explore that world……”
The movie is weird in the most amazing ways as it makes you root for a boy who wants to be a Nazi soldier, laugh at Hitler, and put a smile on your face when the world is shown in childlike wonder. It is not easy to make Nazi Germany funny, but the movie seems to do it seamlessly.