JoJo Rabbit is the long-awaited latest film from writer-director Taika Waititi to hit the big screen following blockbuster Thor Ragnarok, with a script inspired by Christine Leunen’s 2004 novel Caging Skies. Waititi brings his signature comic voice and quirky nuance to uh, Nazi Germany in this brilliantly bold and affecting satire which feels all too timely.
10-year old Nazi enthusiast JoJo (Roman Griffin Davis) and his imaginary best friend, Adolf Hilter (Taika Waititi) head to Nazi camp with the ambition to become the best young Nazi soldier ever, winning the acceptance of his peers in the process following the disappearance of his father. That’s until an accident inadvertently leads him to discover that his mum (Scarlett Johansson) has secretly been hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. His initial horror turns to an inquisitiveness – leading to him to question everything he knows.
Yes the plot is really rather silly, but once you get over the ridiculousness of Waititi’s Hitler gig it’s genuinely hard to stop yourself from smiling at the real heart and humour on offer. Whether that’s Yorki (Archie Yates) accidently firing off a rocket-launcher or Captain Klenzendorf’s (Sam Rockwell) whole host of brilliant war outfit designs. This wonderful and wacky coming-of-age tale evokes Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, highlighting the fine line between the tender innocence of youth and the sad heartbreak of innocence lost. Much like Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy, Waititi also packs a real gut-punch in the third act, opening your eyes to the sombre reality of war.
Leading up the fantastic cast is the wonderful Roman Griffin Davis with a remarkable debut performance, along with Archie Yates’s utterly charming and hilarious Yorki. Scarlett Johansson continues her year of amazing performances following Avengers: Endgame and Marriage Storage as JoJo’s caring mother who’s endless hope really is an inspiration, particularly for McKenzie’s orphan. Director Waititi also shows an impressive range, spiralling from zany best friend to menacing bully throughout the film. But out of all the extended cameos, Sam Rockwell’s performance as the barmy but good at heart SS officer stayed with me the most.
JoJo Rabbit is the film we need right now – it’s bold, brilliant and really rather moving. The satire is a daring commentary on facism, racism and anti-hate, but at the same time features all of the heart and escapism expected from the Kiwi writer-director. Bravo Taika Waititi.