Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for January 10th, 2020

Jojo Rabbit ***

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th January, 2020

Jojo RabbitFew 10-year-old boys would choose Adolf Hitler as their imaginary friend, but in Taika Waititi’s wacky comic drama Jojo Rabbit, it’s wartime in Germany and little blond, blue-eyed Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffiths Davis) is in love with uniforms and swastikas and dreams of graduating to the Hitler Youth. However, it is clear from his behaviour at the Nazi equivalent of a boy scout camp that he doesn’t have the instinct to kill, let alone be inhumane. Meanwhile, his beautifully-dressed, superficially dreamy mother (Scarlett Johansson) apparently indulges his boyhood fantasies while in fact hiding not only her real views but also a dangerous secret in the attic. The war is already going badly, but this does not stop the authorities in their hunt for conspirators, Communists and Jews, all of whom are dragged off to prison camps or shot or even hung in the village square. In the film, the Gestapo (and the imaginary Hitler, played by Taika Waititi himself) are idiotic buffoons, yet their intent is frightening. Thus the film walks a tight-rope between black humour satire and an understanding of the horrific reality of life in the Third Reich. There are numerous hilarious moments, but also many sobering ones, including the grotesque pictorial characterisation of Jews.

Making fun of Hitler was of course brilliantly done by Mel Brooks in The Producers, which for me is one of the greatest comic movies of all time. Jojo Rabbit isn’t in the same league, but it does make one think more about the realities of Nazi Germany, even when scenes and characters are exaggerated to the point of parody. A lot of the credit for the overall success of the film rests with young Roman Griffiths Davis, who is not just endearing but also displays a wonderful range of moods and expressions, as his coming-of-age takes the form of moving from idolisation of the Fuehrer and the pomp and ceremony of Nazism to literally kicking Hitler out of the window.

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