Taika Waititi, the genius behind What We Do in the Shadows & Thor Ragnarok, returns with the controversial World War 2 satire Jojo Rabbit. I'm not someone that gets easily offended, so the second I heard of Jojo Rabbit, I was excited. Especially since every one of Waititi’s previous films has been excellent. So it's no surprise to say that Jojo Rabbit is another funny winner from Taika, but it's also one of my personal favorites of 2019 and a deeply moving coming of age drama that made me tear up more than once.
Waititi moves from very funny comedy to moving, emotional drama with such ease that it's commendable that it doesn't end up feeling jarring when the tone completely shifts. It's certainly a satire through and through and doesn't even attempt to make it historically accurate with all German characters speaking English and acting cartoonish. But yet the moments where it truly shines is in its quiet, more dramatic scenes of dialogue and heart that really make Jojo Rabbit a beautiful little film.
The story of Jojo (newcomer Roman Griffin Davis) is mainly a coming of age one inside a WW2 satire, and a poignant and emotional one at that. Jojo is a jingoistic 10-year-old who aspires to be a Nazi just like his imaginary friend who is a childlike version of Adolf Hitler but soon finds out his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is harboring a 17-year-old Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) and must keep it a secret while also forming a bond with Elsa in the process. A truly original and heartfelt story with enough humor, joy, and warmth to offset the hateful humans that the film gleefully mock.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
What a dynamite cast this film has. Some of the funniest, most talented actors in one film and they all end up stealing the show from one another every time a new one is introduced. The entire cast is worth praising, but I'll give a special shoutout to newcomer Roman Griffin Davis who plays Jojo and Scarlett Johansson who plays his anti-Nazi and loving mother Rosie. These two together were electric and Johansson might've delivered her best performance to date as the strong-willed Rosie. The rest of the cast includes the always great Sam Rockwell, the hilarious Stephen Merchant, the surprisingly funny Rebel Wilson, the underused but still fun to see Alfie Allen, and of course, Taika Waititi as Jojo's imaginary friend Adolf who's both hilarious and sinister being both the innocent and maniacal parts of Jojo's subconscious. It's a stacked cast but a truly wonderful one.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Nothing better than a German version of a classic Beatles song to start the movie on a HUGE positive. The music throughout is absolutely phenomenal with tons of German covers of classic songs from artists like David Bowie, Tom Waits, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Beatles. The score itself works wonderfully for both the more comedic and dramatic moments whenever the tone shifts from one another. Not gonna lie, I immediately looked up the soundtrack and have been listening to the German version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" for the last couple of days.
The set design and overall look of the film won't win any awards, but I think it's very suited for this type of WW2 film. The town set is pretty small with not much being shown beside a couple of key places, but yet the amount of detail put into small things like the look of Jojo's house and rooms and even the little items we see scattered around the town all add some character to the setting. The costume design is on point with Nazi uniforms and time appropriate clothing and the small instances of makeup like Jojo's scarred face and even Taika's transformation into Hitler are all commendable.
Jojo Rabbit affected me emotionally way more than I ever thought it would. It's a poignant, hilarious, and beautiful coming of age story about tolerance and love. I absolutely loved it and you shouldn't let it pass you by. It's one of the best in 2019 in my opinion.