Taika Waititi and Scarlett Johansson bring some wildly conflicting emotions in ‘Jojo Rabbit’ (TIFF review)
It’s easy to see why Taika Waititi’s ‘Jojo Rabbit’ landed on the Black List (of best scripts never made) in 2012, a story about a young German boy in the Hitlerjugend and his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler. But Charlie Chaplin made ’The Great Dictator’ in 1940, during WWII, and there have been comedies about it ever since.
We follow Jojo Betzler as he enters the Hitlerjugend but can’t quite find his way. He’s Hitler’s biggest fan, but doesn’t seem to have the heart to join the war effort. Sitting around bored at home, he discovers a young girl living behind the walls in his house. A girl who makes him question everything he believes in.
Meanwhile, his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is actually against the war, and doing her part to help the resistance. But Jojo is too busy with his Nazi-life to even notice, as he’s still arguing with Adolf about what to do about the young girl behind the walls.
Some might know Taika Waititi (besides his many roles as an actor) from directing ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, but ‘Jojo Rabbit’ takes a closer resemblance to his earlier festival hit ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ (2016), also about a silly young boy doing silly stuff.
With the stakes set higher this time, the whole film only works because of the brilliant young Jojo, played by Roman Griffin Davis in his first feature film. Sure, he has the help of Taika Waititi as Hitler, Johansson as his mother, and Sam Rockwell steals every scene he is in too. But what a feat it is when you can carry a film like this at such a young age.
‘Jojo Rabbit’ brings up many emotions along the way. It starts as a comedy and ends as a drama. It shows us the silly ideas a whole country believed in through the eyes of a young boy. By that, it’s not the most enlightening film, but it’s not a forgettable comedy either.
#TIFF19 Public Screenings: Sun Sep 8, 9:30PM / Mon Sep 9, 10AM / Fri Sep 13, 9:30PM / Sun Sep 15, 12PM