Christine Leunens (novel), Taika Waititi (screenplay)
As wild as its title, JOJO RABBIT follows the protagonist, a German boy, a Nazi fanatic given the nickname of JoJo Rabbit (Roman Griffin Davis) during a Nazi training camp for failure to kill a rabbit in order to prove his loyalty to the Führer.
It is not an easy task to make a tasteful film with Nazi Germany in the setting and a fanatic Führer young boy as the lead. But it has been done successfully – ie. Germany Nazi comedy in TV series like HOGAN’S HEROES and ALLO ALLO.
The boy also has an imaginary friend giving him advice throughout the story, as Humphrey Bogart advised the meek Wood Allen character in PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM. It is Adolf Hitler himself (played with gust by director Waititi) who gives the boy advice right to the very last frame of the film.
JOJO RABBIT, while being a satire of the german machinery during WWII is a coming-of-age story of JoJo, a boy who aims at serving the Führer the best he can while discovering love in the form of a Jewish girl his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding in the family house from the Germans.
Jojo Betzler is a precocious kid in World War II Germany with an egregious blind spot. Socially awkward, but a proud member of the Hitler Youth, Jojo passes much of his time with his imaginary friend Adolf, a cuddly, energetic, pep-talking version of the Führer. Having completely bought into Nazi hate, Jojo is incensed when he discovers that his mother has been working for the resistance, helping to keep safe the Jewish people he’s been taught to hate. With Germany on the brink of collapse, he is faced with the choice of clinging to his hateful beliefs or embracing his humanity.
The film contains many laugh-out loud moments demonstrating director Waititi’s keen sense of humour. His comedy timing is immaculate.
Roman Griffin Davis is a real find as the 10-year old boy. Oscar Winner Sam Rockwell relishes his role as the sympathetic Nazi with a fondness for same-sex flirtations while Australian comedienne Rebel Wilson keeps popping up multiple points in the film as different characters ranging from Nazi trainer to Nazi secretary to Nazi masseuse providing additional laughs. All the actors appear to speak english with the perfect German accent.
JOJO RABBIT turns out to be a harmless really funny comedy with a message to boot.
Spoiler alert: I have to include this priceless moment in the review as it made the movie, but it concludes a spoiler of a key plot point. Skip this paragraph (in italics) if it needs be. In a key moment near the film’s end after the Germans have lost the war, Jojo’s nemesis , his imaginary Hitler appears to still give him nasty advice. Jojo screams; “Fuck off!” and kicks him out the window of his room. The scene elicited loud laughs and the guy next to me the screening happened to turn to me, where he, clearly a Jew, who had suffered anti-Semitism shared the laughs with me.
The film went on to win the Toronto International Film Festival Audience (Popular) Film Award.