After a few minutes in to the film Jojo Rabbit any viewer will be excused if they wonder out loud – “what they hell am I watching, and where is this movie going to go?” Viewers may also be excused if they ask out loud “Is Taika Waititi a Pen Name now being used by Wes Anderson?”
If you are a Marvel Franchise fan, then you know that Writer\Director\Actor Waititi is the voice of Krug for Avengers, Thor, and What If.
Jojo Rabbit is silly, comically self-aware, and works for the most part. Jojo Rabbit is highly original, although Waititi’s screenplay is derived from Christine Leunens Novel Caging Sky.
Jojo Rabbit is set Nazi Germany as the end of WWII in the European Theater approaches. The foundation and story-line is great for any film: the dilemmas currently confronting a 10 year-old boy, a mom who has to raise a young boy and hold down a demanding job while the father is out of town, and the challenge both experience with a problematic house guest.
The costumes and sets for Jojo Rabbit pull you completely into 1940’s Europe. The dialog is most definitely 21st Century America – which has to be deliberate . The relationship and dialog between Jojo and his imaginary friend are worth their weight in gold.
The satire of Jojo Rabbit is at its biting best in the first two acts. The final act is more conventional for reasons that become obvious. It is this change that while not a failure, makes JoJo Rabbit seem less original and bold.
Jeff’s Worthless Trivia & Other Thoughts
Scarlett Johansson as Rosie Betzler is terrific. Johansson’s performance demonstrates that yet again there is probably not a role beyond her abilities.
Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa Korr (the House Guest) suggests that she might be the next new Chameleon like Actress from the Down Under Region (New Zealand in this case). McKenzie is convincing as a European teenager. She was outstanding as the capable teenager of the Pacific Northwest in the superb and otherwise underrated film Leave No Trace.
Comedy and satire placed at the periphery or center of historically horrific events is always a tricky bargain. Time heals. However, timing and the state of a society’s current sensibility can create a reversal. Mel Brooks is a master at the navigation with Blazing Saddles and The Producers. Ironically, I think it would be hard to make Blazing Saddles in today’s environment.