Here’s things you should know – the page number in a book denotes the number of the page you are on; The ‘S’ on Superman’s chest stands for ‘Superman’; and that the events that happened during WWII were horrific.
I don’t even want to begin a conversation with you if you weren’t aware of the above.
What is more surprising is that those terrible events between 1939 and 1945 inspired a genuinely feel-good, delightful comedic romp in the form of Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit.
The comedy-drama follows an exceptional acting debut from Roman Griffin Davis as the titular Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, a Hitler youth member who finds out his mother is harbouring a Jewish girl in their house. I know it sounds about as funny as Mrs. Brown’s Boys – which is saying something – but trust me, there are plenty of laughs.
Oh, and Jojo’s best mate just so happens to be an imaginary iteration of Adolf Hitler, played by the writer-director, Taika Waititi, who’s known for stealing scenes in his other films, such as in What We Do In The Shadows as Viago, or as Korg in Thor: Ragnarok. He’s just less, y’know, swastika-y in those.
Jojo Rabbit boasts an incredible cast – Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant all appear as German residents, and what I find most charming about their outings is that their German accents aren’t really all that. There’s something funny about being taken out of the film and realising that it is, in fact, the bloke from Extras playing a Gestapo agent, or that Aussie woman from Cats now starring as an instructor in the Hitler Youth camp. (To be fair, if I had to pick between starring in Cats, or actually being a member of the Hitler Youth, it would be a tough decision.) You can clearly hear Rebel Wilson’s Australian twang as she attempts her German tone, and I’m not calling her – or any of the rest of the cast – bad actors; I think it’s a funny, conscious decision to make the harshness of the film a little easier. At one point, Stephen, Sam Rockwell and Alfie Allen exchange over 30 ‘Heil Hitlers’, and this bizarre moment is made so much funnier knowing that one of them is an Academy Award winner.
As for the children cast; I don’t think you could have found finer actors, more suited for the roles. Unless Taika auditioned Mel Gibson, but I think he’d have found it more of a passion project for other reasons. Roman Griffin Davis had never appeared in a film before; Jojo Rabbit was his acting debut, and it’s worth noting he is 12-years-old. He delivers every line with incredible comedic timing, when necessary; his facial expressions are often subtle, but deliver more-than-enough emotion, and towards the final chapter of the film, he truly, truly shines. Imagine being 12-years-old and being nominated for a Golden Globe alongside the (soon-to-be-winning) Eddie Murphy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Taron Egerton and Daniel Craig. Meanwhile, at 12-years-old, I could successfully identify the first 17 Pokémon characters, so…
Not to take away from the exceptional Roman, but you have to give credit to his on-screen bestie, Yorki, who is played by 9-10-year-old, Archie Yates (who is also set to star at the new lead in the upcoming Home Alone remake.*) Archie is both parts adorable and brilliant, and a scene-stealing force. If you haven’t already seen the trailer, I ask – nay, demand – you do now, just to see this 10-year-old say “It’s definitely not a good time to be a Nazi.”
* This time, with less Donald Trump please. Again, I’d rather have actual Hitler appear.
I appreciate that many people will see advertisements for Jojo Rabbit and tut in anger. I showed my mother – a Jewish woman – the trailer for the film, and she nearly bludgeoned me to within an inch of my life with a nearby menorah. But what you have to appreciate is that it was never Taika’s objective to mock what happened during WWII. He has made a comedy that is set during the events of WWII. I have read reviews that state the tone of the film is quite often wrong – and while I can frequently see similarities between Jojo Rabbit and, say, Wes Anderson (at moments such as a scene between Jojo and his mother at a staircase) – I actually thoroughly enjoyed this. It helped shed some much-needed light on the horrifying events that happened, which, again, Taika does showcase throughout, including executions and war. If anything, the harsh switch from airy, quippy humour to brutal WWII moments really contends with some other war dramas I’ve seen.
I suggest you do your research on Jojo Rabbit before going to see it – maybe watch the trailer, or an interview or two – just so you can get your head around what you’re about to see. If you don’t, you may choke on your popcorn. (Or, if you’re like me, you may choke on your popcorn, Minstrels, hot dog, Tango Ice Blast, Haribo Starmix, Ben & Jerry’s, and sausage rolls – yes, I bring them from home.)
But once you are aware of what Jojo Rabbit is – and how, in fact, important it is that we’re having these discussions, in a world where it’s oddly okay for Nazis to still be out and to protest because of “freedom of speech – then you should thoroughly enjoy it; I laughed, I cried, and I pre-ordered it on Amazon. It’s just that good.
And to quote one of my favourite moments from the film, and to possibly trial a new signature for me to end all of my reviews – fuck off, Hitler.