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  • Writer's pictureBruce Klein

Jojo Rabbit: Review

Imagine a movie that is about characters that are both funny and evil. Our ten year-old hero Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is caught in the middle of a world-wide battle. He swears allegiance to one side but many painful events during the war make him question his loyalty. He finds his parents are fighting for the other side. He befriends a young woman Elsa (Thomasin McKenzien) who is hiding in his house. She is hunted and hated by his side. After knowing her for months, he realizes that his side is using propaganda to besmirch her people.

The movie’s most sympathetic character is Jojo’s friend Yorki (Archie Yates). He seems to just pass time with the fighters on Jojo’s side in the war. His is lost and confused about his true nature and the battle inside himself confronts him. As he states, “He is a boy inside of a fat boy.” His role as a soldier in the war is a minor concern. Although he tries to unite with his side of the cause, it is more a game to him although the stakes are high and death is at everyone’s doorstep.

Captain Klezendorpf (Sam Rockwell) is one of the leaders on Jojo’s side. His portrayal stands out among all others. He wears the uniform of a warrior on the outside but inside he is frightened and skeptical but noble. His influence on Jojo is a point of light in this dark world. He is the guide of Jojo’s spirit. Jojo’s mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansen) is a dear person who attempts to win Jojo over to her side and get him to drop the burden of sacrificing for his army. Although there is sadness about Rosie, she keeps her faith that the enemy will be stopped and her side will bring about peace. Elsa’s most pressing goal is to keep herself from enemy capture. She hides and focuses her energy on her drawing. She has lost her young lover and hides from his loss.

At the beginning of act three, Jojo is separated from his mother but Yorki is his friend and Elsa is bonded to him. As the war draws to a close, his homeland is in shambles and the population is shocked and confused.

Some elements of this movie are reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s films Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums and Anderson’s other surreal but wonderful movies. But Jojo Rabbit’s writer/director Taika Waititi (aka Taika Cohen) puts his movie clearly in the Juvenilia satire camp while Anderson is all parody and surrealism. Waititi probably made this dark satire because it allows him to digest a horrible truth. Although there are other movies about war, “Jojo Rabbit” takes on war and even makes it strangely funny at times. For comedic effect, the events of this epoch are tinged with today’s popular music, street speech, movies styles, and barbs on the totems of our pop culture. Laughing at anything can be a great release including laughs at gallows humor.

Although the hero is 10 years old, this movie is not for children, but my hope is that young adults will pick up on the truth behind this satire and recognize it's genuine vileness. Because young adults did not live through recent historic events, war seems remote and far away. It is not part of their smart-phone world. Narrative motion pictures can aid in viewing history, but the audience - young or old - must separate the dramatics from the truth.


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