- Writer-director Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”) tells the story of a young German boy coming of age during the Nazi reign in “Jojo Rabbit.”
- It’s a touching story filled with comedy that explores hate and bigotry.
- And Scarlett Johansson as the boy’s mother gives one of her best performances in recent memory.
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One of the joys of going to see a movie directed by Taika Waititi is that you never know what you’ll get from it. Even his most mainstream movie to date, “Thor: Ragnarok,” is one of the most unique stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So it should come as no surprise that his latest movie, “Jojo Rabbit” (in theatres October 18), is so unique it’s surprising it was even made in the first place.
Set in Germany during World War II, the story follows a 10-year-old boy named Jojo (played by Roman Griffin Davis) who is obsessed with all things Nazi and dreams of one day growing up to become part of Adolf Hitler’s special security detail. But when Jojo heads off to a Nazi kids training program, it becomes apparent that Jojo does not have what it takes to be a true Nazi soldier. Even a pep talk from his imaginary friend, Hitler himself (played by Waititi), doesn’t work out as Jojo, in a dramatic attempt to impress everyone, ends up getting injured trying to throw a grenade.
Stuck back at home with his mum (Scarlett Johansson) and an injured leg, he’s relegated to helping out in the war by going around town and dropping off propaganda. Then his mind really gets messed up when he learns that his mother has been allowing a young Jewish girl to hide in their house.
Based on the book “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens, Waititi has crafted a very singular coming-of-age tale. We follow Jojo as his hatred for his discovered house guest leads to an unlikely friendship. But to get to that place, Waititi doesn’t hold back in exploring the mindless hate Jojo had been fed most of his life by the Nazi party.
It’s all done in such an outlandish manner that you can’t help but laugh, especially the scenes of Waititi as Hitler. That is Waititi’s intention: to examine the absurdity of hate and bigotry through comedy.
Waititi also pulls at the heartstrings. Johansson’s performance as the good-willed mother is one of her best in recent memory. To counteract the hate that her son has for the world, she uses comedy (funny one-liners, expressions, even tying his shoelaces together) and heightens the movie in every scene she’s in.
Honestly, this movie will not be for everyone. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from Waititi. It’s that journey into the unknown with him that makes it exciting. If you’re ready to throw caution to the wind, I suggest you give this one a try.
The business details:
- In theatres October 18.
- 108-minute running time.
- Released by Fox Searchlight.