Reading about the plot of Jojo Rabbit is enough to make you raise an eyebrow. The film follows a young boy (newcomer Roman Griffin Davis) in Hitler’s youth organization who soon discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home. The concept may sound like the wrong recipe for a satire.
However, this film comes from writer-director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows), and viewers of his previous work know that his comedy comes from an honest place. Never does Jojo Rabbit take aim at poking fun at the many lives that were lost during the Holocaust. Rather, the Jewish-Maori filmmaker decorates Nazi Germany in figurative clown makeup while also not shying away from the reality of the time.
To attempt to box it up, Jojo Rabbit is like watching The Boy in the Striped Pajamas mixed with Meatballs and Let the Right One In but with a comedian’s commentary.
As feather-ruffling as that may appear, especially when the central child has an imaginary friend who is Hitler (hilariously portrayed by Waititi), it’s all in good taste. It has a childlike innocence on its side and often uses humor to soften the blow.
Waititi’s juggling of comedy and drama is extraordinary. You may gasp at one sequence, but Waititi will promptly steer you back to pure joy.
Jojo Rabbit is a bittersweet entry that should be mandatory viewing for schools to educate students about the Holocaust. It’s not emotionally draining like Schindler’s List and The Diary of Anne Frank. It uses comedy to disarm viewers and touch deeper with its emotional swing. It has so much positivity in its narrative that it could warm the iciest of hearts. Jojo Rabbit is absolutely lovely, and one of the year’s very best films.