“Jojo Rabbit” focuses on a 10-year-old boy named Jojo who is part of the Hitler Youth in 1945 Germany and whose imaginary friend is Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. When Jojo returns home one day, however, he discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in the attic and must decide if he should report the girl to authorities or not.
The plot of “Jojo Rabbit” may raise some eyebrows while others will be immediately sold. I’m lukewarm on it.
There are moments in which the film is hilarious and director Taika Waititi’s performance as an exaggerated version of Hitler is entertaining. He has good chemistry with Jojo played by Roman Griffin Davis, who also gave a solid performance. Waititi’s performance can be thought of as a friend whose every idea is terrible but so bad you cannot help but mock them.
Waititi also tries to incorporate drama toward the last act of the film, which is honestly the best part of “Jojo Rabbit.” There is actual weight to the performances in these moments, and it just seems to fit better than making a mockery of the Nazis.
While the first and third acts are spectacular, the second act feels slow and drawn out. Waititi wants to “develop” the characters in this act, but it just feels like padding.
Given how this film won the audience award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, it is surprising that most audience members did not complain about the film’s lackluster middle act.
This is the most perplexed I have felt about a film in a long time. Waititi aims to satirize fascism and its effects on a population, but his execution feels scattered. Either make a serious drama that delves into the horrors of the Nazis or make an over the top satire of evil. Trying to do both results in a well-intentioned but confused film.
Unlike Waititi’s previous film “Thor: Ragnarok,” the humor feels forced at points and is not welcoming to those who lack knowledge of World War II. There is also a mean-spirited tone that seems to permeate parts of the script, which feels natural at points but childish at others.
Despite the criticisms of the film’s structure, “Jojo Rabbit” does a great job in enforcing an anti-hate message at the end of the film: A message that is needed in today’s polarizing climate. It does not feel tacked on or pushed by any executive, rather it is the glue that holds together an otherwise oddly constructed film.
Recommending “Jojo Rabbit” is a bigger struggle than writing a review for it. Unless you are a World War II buff or a die-hard fan of Waititi’s work, the premise and execution of this movie may be hard to get interested in. It is not a bad film, but it is certainly not one of the year’s best.
Final Score: 3.5/5
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @jojorabbitmovie Instagram.
Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org