Rating: A-, B+ somewhere between there
Basically: Taika Waititi goes 90% Wes Anderson, 10% Quentin Tarantino
Summary: A Hitler youth participant finds his mother is helping the enemy.
Man, this was just the kind of thing I needed. It’s been a year of reboots and sequels and animated-turned-live-action, and I kind of just accepted them. I got pretty complacent with this year’s quality. And then along came Jojo Rabbit, to slap me in the face and remind me that the majority of movies this year have been crap. You might have seen the trailer and thought it looked batshit insane and you’re not wrong. It’s a surrealist take on the end of WWII- our protagonist Jojo is a brainwashed member of the Hitler youth and spends his days with his best (imaginary) friend Adolf, only to discover that his mother is helping the people he is supposed to hunt. That sounds dark, hrm?
Only… it’s not. It’s more fun than terrifying in its oddities. Waititi gives us everything from a child’s perspective and ends up with a pretty stunning coming of age story. He manages to capture the innocence of youth and the yearning of feeling important, and makes those universal child sentiments tangible to the audience. Then, just when you start to feel comfortable with how Waititi finds humor in the film’s subject matter, he flips it around to make sure we are still keeping the time period in the back of our minds. The entire movie is well balanced with Jojo’s earnestness and an unsettling nagging feeling at the same time.
The actors really pull this through, as the characters feel so dimensional and real. There is some extremely strong chemistry in this and exceptional character development. I loved that we never view Jojo as a Nazi, but rather as an ordinary young boy who’s being led down the wrong path and is forced to grow up too quickly. And this might be the first time I liked Scarlett Johansson in a movie. Might.