JoJo Rabbit is a film with a formula nobody would expect to work. A wannabe 10-year-old Nazi whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler finds out his mother is harboring a Jewish girl towards the end of World War II. It is an odd approach at both comedy and as a narrative because it has so many elements with the potential to hurt or offend others. However, JoJo Rabbit not only manages to deliver one of the funniest comedies of the year, but it tells a damn good story about finding out who you really are.
What may be the most compelling aspect of JoJo Rabbit is JoJo’s (Roman Griffin Davis) personal journey. Due to an accident during a training camp he cannot join the army and is reduced to civilian duties such as mail deliveries and putting up propaganda posters. When he finds Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in his home, his first instinct is to threaten and interrogate her. But due to their age difference, she takes him down easily. As the relationship between the two grows and JoJo learns more about Jewish people, he realizes they are human just like the Germans are. Challenging JoJo’s blind nationalism in this way helps the film from becoming too silly and gives it more purpose. Sweet moments also come from his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) and even Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), making the film seem more fleshed out. It is definitely about JoJo, but the people around him are characters worth caring about (and sometimes getting annoyed by).
Subtle character moments bring laughs and smiles throughout JoJo Rabbit, but everything has a meaning behind it. Two important symbols revolves around shoes and dancing. Without saying too much, it is enough to make you cry by the end. Seeing characters mature throughout the movie feels extremely rewarding as well.
As mentioned before, the biggest draw to JoJo Rabbit is its comedy -- and it delivers almost all the time. I cannot think of a moment where I was not yelling laughing (it is a real problem, I know) if the situation called for it. The film knew when to take breaks from the comedy but it always knew when to come back to it as well. The two funniest characters are Captain Klenzendorf and Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). They came in mostly at the right times, but Hitler’s over-the-top performance sometimes got a bigger laugh from the audience than it deserved. His performance was not gratingly annoying but there was one scene where I thought to myself, “yeah, okay, I think we can move on.” Nonetheless everyone gets a few great moments to shine.
All in all, JoJo Rabbit is a great time to be had. The subject matter is certainly sensitive but what is great is how the film does its best to mock the oppressors of the time period. Despite some language and ways in which some of the film is handled, parents and teens can enjoy this film together.