Jojo Rabbit: a film review by James Berardinelli

December 25, 2019 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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It’s not hard to understand how something like Jojo Rabbit might divide audiences. Comedies about Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Third Reich can be difficult to sell, even if there’s an underlying seriousness to the subject matter.

Writer/director Taika Waititi’s intentions are to italicize the stupidity of racism and underscore the importance of understanding; to do this, he employs humour and absurdity hand-in-hand with the occasional dark gut-punch. The problem with Waititi’s approach, not unlike those faced by Roberto Benigni 22 years ago when he made the divisive Life Is Beautiful, is perfecting the tonal shifts. His difficulties in this area can create a whiplash effect that results in the overall production feeling a little “off.” One leaves the theatre vaguely disconcerted, as if the movie almost achieved its goals but didn’t quite succeed.


Jojo Rabbit follows the misadventures of a ten-year-old boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), growing up in Nazi-era Germany. Lonely and feeling neglected – his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), covertly works for the resistance and his father is somewhere overseas – Jojo finds a sense of belonging by joining a military youth group. His imaginary friend is none other than the Fuhrer (Waititi), albeit a clownish echo of the megalomaniac dictator. Unfortunately for Jojo, he is not adept at military training and, after he nearly blows himself up with a mis-aimed grenade, his commanding officer, Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), dismisses him from service. With little else to do, he hangs around at home. His snooping uncovers something surprising: a teenage Jewish refugee, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), whom his mother has offered shelter. Although initially hostile and suspicious, Jojo’s perceptions change the more time he spends with the girl.






James Berardinelli is a Los Angeles-based world-renowned movie reviewer. J-Wire is proud to be associated with him.



3 Responses to “Jojo Rabbit: a film review by James Berardinelli”
  1. colin tow says:

    This is an unconscionable movie. How can any informed person be entertained by a movie that has the audacity to introduce light hearted comedy into such a terribly dark event, particularly the focus on children, given that 1.5m perished during the Holocaust? Can you imagine the public outcry if a similarly structured comedy was produced trivialising the current bushfire crisis, which is infinitely smaller both in terms of loss of life and evil intent?

  2. Lynne Newington says:

    I saw the preview and find it difficult to understand why a Jewish producer where ever they come from would even consider satire involving Hitler……
    “I just want people to be more tolerant and spread more love and less hate” is a poor example on this subject in my opinion.
    And insensitive to Holocaust survivors and families.

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