Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Marketed as “anti-hate satire,” Jojo Rabbit takes you on a surreal journey to deliver its simple message: Hate is bad. Director, Taika Waititi’s film does it with a blend of some hard-hitting drama and whimsy. You are either going to love it or… hate it.
Jojo (Roman Griffen Davis) is a ten-year-old German boy living in Berlin during the final stages of World War II. Jojo’s elder sister recently passed away and his father is currently at the Italian Front, which leaves him alone with his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). Left to his own devices for most of the day, Jojo becomes infatuated with the Nazi party and creates an imaginary friend, his ideal image of Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi himself). Jojo’s Hitler is childish and supportive, but also demands loyalty to himself and the Nazi Party.
When left alone at home one day, Jojo discovers Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), a teenage Jewish girl hiding within the walls of his sister’s former bedroom. Jojo threatens to turn her over to the Gestapo, but Elsa points out how his mother would be killed for hiding her. This “Mexican stalemate” challenges everything Jojo has grown to believe as true, and his loyalty to his friend, Adolf.
Jojo Rabbit’s use of humor reminded me of the sitcoms I watched growing up like All In The Family, Sanford & Son, and The Jeffersons. Those programs used comedy as a tool for commentary on all sorts of social issues, as well as a weapon against the societal divides among races. And like those sitcoms, Jojo Rabbit’s satire is aimed directly at the absurd behavior of those who live to hate.
Sure, Archie Bunker was never motivated by malice, so he is way easier to laugh at than Hitler. But as Jojo Rabbit takes on racism and bigotry at one of the ugliest times in recent history, it never disrespects the horrendous consequences of blindly following that ideology. Some of the film’s most powerful moments are when it takes a pause from the satire to give weight to the life that was lost at the cost of Nazi propaganda.
You might find the way Jojo Rabbit forcefully shifts between comedy and drama difficult to stick with or have a tough time laughing at Nazis. But those who are able to hang on are going to love the ride.
It is #MarsApproved.