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JoJo Rabbit (2019) Movie Review

My Cat Persephone Wrote this Review on her Smartphone. It was better than Mine. .

jojo-rabbit-2019-movie-review

MPAA Rating

PG-13

Running Time

108 minutes

Director

Taika Waititi

Writer

Taika Waititi

The hot summer months of November and December (with some postmature leakage into January) usually drop the prime awards bait. Movies designed to earn your prestige dollar. Sure, most of it may feel like homework, but then you’ll feel better about yourself after watching Hobbs and Shaw for the 4th time this week in secret.

You feel good when you can tell your friends at work, “You know, I just sat through Harriet and that totally makes up for the fact my great-grandfather owned slaves.”

They ask, “Was it any good?”

You answer, “It was so great. Such a powerful story. I was aroused.”

Your friend envy you and feign punching numbers into their phone, pretending to buy tickets to the next showing of Harriet because it’s the right thing to do.

But little do your envious office workers know that midway through Harriet, you ducked into the lobby, chloroformed someone of similar build and height, stripped him/her of their clothing, switched outfits, put that person in the seat where you were sitting, got in line and bought a ticket to Doctor Sleep, because that’s the movie you really wanted to see.

The jig is up. We saw you do it. We get it. Doctor Sleep is a very good sequel and Harriet assuages your white guilt for a couple of minutes but still feels like a PBS special you were forced to watch in grade school in lieu of actual learning.

I just getting to that. Let me check in to all my social media that I’m watching Harriet just like I did last year with the generic Bohemian Rhapsody.

A favorite awards season staple is the tried-and-true Holocaust movie. The movie doesn’t even have to be very good. Just set it during the Holocaust and people will practically throw awards at it. Movies like The Reader and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Life is Beautiful and The Pianist and Denial make one feel like a true cinephile even though you’d much rather be watching something else. Anything else.

Unless it’s Inglourious Basterds, because that movie was sublime. I’d take one of those over 15 Readers (navel-gazing over both Nazis and illiteracy).

But with Taika Waititi’s (What We Do in the Shadows, Thor Ragnarok) new movie JoJo Rabbit, you can watch your movie Nazis and not feel like you’re trapped in the most cliched parts of any History Channel special.

JoJo Rabbit- All of the prestige of an awards bait Holocaust movie, very little of the fat. That alone makes it worth a watch at least once before Generic Slavery Movie or I Can’t Read: The True Story of Me Not Being Able To Read or Life Threatening Disease: The True Story of Someone Who has a Life Threatening Disease But Fights It Heroically and Ultimately Dies In The End opens in the next couple of weeks.

Plus, I’m guessing you’ll never laugh so hard at a movie containing over 30 “Heil Hitlers”.

And yes, I did count but stopped when it reached 35.

We travel back in time where Nazis are prevalent in the current society. You’ll have to flex your imagination muscles since Nazis are such a thing of the past. I’ll give you a moment.

10-year old Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) aspires to be a Nazi. His main ambition in life is to be one of Hitler’s private guard. His father is off fighting in the war and hasn’t been home in 2 years. His doting mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is gone during the day for reasons she’s not telling JoJo.

It’s not unusual for kids to have imaginary friends, and JoJo is no exception. JoJo’s friend is named Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) and is a constant source of support and encouragement.

This weekend JoJo is going to take part in a Hitler youth camp where he will learn the basics of how to serve the Reich and ultimately the Fuhrer. Life is beautiful.

JoJo and dozens of Aryan kids are kept under watchful eyes.

I’m sorry. The watchful eye of Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). He lost his eye in the war, and now he’s stuck overseeing wannabe Nazis since real Nazis don’t like it unless both your eyes are working.

We like it when Hitler's back is against the wall.

We like it when Hitler's back is against the wall.

JoJo is having the time of his life; except he doesn’t seem to be a very good Nazi. The effort and enthusiasm are there, but the execution is lacking. As in, he doesn’t have the heart to kill a rabbit.

If you can’t kill a cute and fluffy bunny, then how the Heil are you supposed to kill a germ-infested Jew?

JoJo can’t. He earns the unfortunate nickname, you guessed it, JoJo Bitch.

JoJo is involved in an unfortunate grenade accident while trying to redeem himself. We’ve all been there. His face is disfigured and he’s relegated to mailing off conscriptions.

Rosie isn’t sad that her newly deformed son is out of the front lines.

Adolf is more than a little disappointed.

Since his mom is gone a lot during the day, JoJo arrives home from work and realizes he’s not alone.

There’s a girl a little older than him named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in the attic. JoJo presumes correctly his mother invited Elsa to stay there. JoJo remembers her from before as she used to be friends with his dead sister.

JoJo also knows Elsa is Jewish, Anne Frankly he knows what a pickle he and his family are in now…

Weirdest Iron Man 2 reunion ever. Also- much better than Iron Man 2.

Weirdest Iron Man 2 reunion ever. Also- much better than Iron Man 2.

What Works With JoJo Rabbit

  • The “Heil Hitler!” scene. I know, a Holocaust movie with a Nazi salute scene. Don’t worry. You’ll know it when you see it. A perfect blend of comedy mixed with outright horror. Stephen Merchant has never been scarier, except maybe wearing those leather chaps on Lip Sync Battle.
  • Of all the countless people who’ve played Hitler over the decades, Taika Waititi’s is by far the funniest. Never thought I’d think this much less write it, but as you watch JoJo, you can’t wait until Hitler makes his next appearance. Waititi is onscreen enough to make Hitler grating and amusing, but never to Galifianakis levels of annoyance.
  • Rarely has tying shoes been so poignant. It’s one of the few non-comedic moments in JoJo that stick. Having written that…

What Doesn't Work With JoJo Rabbit

  • A draggy second half filled with attempts at pathos that are never really earned. The film whipsaws tonally during this portion of the movie and far too few dramatic moments are genuinely convincing. A second viewing might work better, but probably not.
  • Rebel Wilson is wasted in a non-part must have been trimmed during postproduction. After Isn’t It Romantic and The Hustle, at least Wilson is in a good movie this year.
Hitler has no right to be pointing a finger at anyone.

Hitler has no right to be pointing a finger at anyone.

Overall

At times sweet and subversive, but never moving from good to great, JoJo Rabbit is the best Holocaust comedy you’ll see this month, even if you wish it were better.

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Buy Jojo Rabbit Here!

Comments

Noel Penaflor (author) from California on November 12, 2019:

Thank you! It's worth a watch.

AC Wright from New York City on November 12, 2019:

I've been on the fence about this one, but Waititi is such an interesting writer/director...I'll have to think on. But great review!