To get to Best Picture, a movie has to grab attention, become a must-see hit, and play well for the Academy voters. Jojo rejects her offer, in part because it’d be just a pity kiss and it wouldn’t count.
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Writer director Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.
While it would be stupid to suggest that Waititi is sympathising with Nazis, or in any way forgiving Hitler, the extent to which the film is willing to go to mock him and everything he stood for is unambiguously inadequate. For instance, Hitler in the film insists that the rumours about him having just one testicle are inaccurate; he has four. He says he survived the assassination attempt by Claus von Stauffenberg thanks to his superior mind-reading powers. He also says that he has bulletproof legs, and that for dinner, he enjoys eating unicorn.
Jojo Rabbit would rather make juvenile jabs such as this than directly confront its serious themes. The ongoing war is never seen, and is only ever mentioned in passing. Waititi instead handles the subject with kid gloves, and inserts shots of hanging bodies, publicly lynched; and of personal belongings strewn about on the streets, evidence of a Jewish family’s apparent arrest.
We find shades of Mel Brooks’ infamous (and imaginary) play Springtime for Hitler here, but taken to perhaps even more outlandish extremes. Hearing Jojo enthusiastically shout Heil Hitler!” to everyone he meets one bright morning is both incredibly disturbing, blending the innocence of youth with one of the darkest regimes in all of the world’s dark history.
Until, that is, he meets one of them. It turns out that her lack of party spirit isn’t the only thing his mother is hiding: She’s also keeping Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), a teenage Jewish girl, in the crawlspace of their house. After a lot of bad advice from his imaginary adviser Adolf, Jojo decides that it’s okay to befriend her, and their relationship gradually weans him away from the poison of his Nazi aspirations. But meanwhile the war’s endgame converts absurdity into tragedy, for the boys conscripted to the fatherland’s defense and the bumbling officers in charge of them — and even for some of the resisters, whose time and luck run out before the Russians get there.
Taika Waititi takes aim at the Third Reich (and contemporary fascism) in this paper-thin satire. Save for a handful of its Gestapo caricatures, the Nazis in writer-director Taika Waititi’s latest are nothing short of likable, entertaining and inherently decent.
The first half of Jojo Rabbit is characterized by the lively characters that Watiti brilliantly presents us. I actually loved how the characters showed the ridiculous nature of fascism. Sam Rockwell shines as the closeted, blunt, incapable officer in charge of the child Nazis-in-training troop. Rebel Wilson constantly tickled my funny bone as an insane secretary. Waititi’s dark humor as Jojo’s imagined Hitler was truly entertaining and did shed light on how children perceive the world. This first half of the movie was similar to Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, where characters become more colorful due to their positions in the eyes of child protagonists. Although I agree with Smith that the film’s upbeat mood is merely a product of its chosen perspective,” when the film takes a more serious turn in its second half, the aforementioned comedy becomes almost offensive.
From early scenes audaciously intercutting Triumph of the Will footage with the German Beatlemania sounds of Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand (other playfully anachronistic pop tunes include Tom Waits’s I Don’t Wanna Grow Up and David Bowie’s Helden), to later interludes in which Imaginary Adolf acts more like a petulant schoolboy than a murderous dictator, Waititi strives to capture young Jojo’s wide-eyed point of view. There’s a distant echo here of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas , another 12-certificate film that looked at the horrors of nazism from the perspective of children. But Mark Herman’s adaptation of John Boyne’s novel had an altogether clearer agenda, leaving the audience in no doubt as to the purpose of the drama.
JojoIt honestly doesn’t get any quirkier than this and with director Taika Waititi at the helm I’d expect nothing less. Jojo Rabbit is one hell of an emotional roller-coaster and tonally a bit all over the place which will leave most of you an emotional wreck by the time the credits roll.
Having said that, ambition only gets you so far, and the originality of this self-proclaimed “anti-hate satire” subsides after a few minutes. “Jojo Rabbit” doesn’t quite come together the way its opening promises and, most shockingly, lacks the punch it needs to really work. It’s far from the disaster it could have been given the tonal tightrope it walks, but it’s also closer to a misfire than we all hoped it would be. Believe it or not, the Hitler Comedy” plays it too safe.
Of course, it is not unusual for filmmakers to address the horrors of the real world with humour. But a crucial difference between what Chaplin achieved in 1940, during World War 2 (or even what Sacha Baron Cohen did more recently with The Dictator), and Jojo Rabbit is that Waititi strikes a deliberately off-putting tone.
By the end of the movie, I felt a bit manipulated into liking the movie. I thought the fast-paced comedy was incredibly smart and fun, but I was also disappointed with its proximity to tragedy. I appreciated the moral narrative of resistance to oppression, but I felt that the narrative was forced. The film wants to spread a message of love in the face of hatred, but the moral message is buried too much in the movie’s lightheartedness.
More than that, there’s a beauty that shines through this dramedy’s inherent darkness and dysfunction. Jojo Rabbit tells a story about the power of life and love and heroism of a different kind—one that embraces kindness and goodness above the things that Nazi Germany valued. Or, let’s face it, what our world often values, too.
Jojo contemplates love—scorning it at first. But his mother insists that it’s a good thing—the strongest thing imaginable. And that one day, he’ll feel it for himself. Elsa already has felt it: She talks about a boy named Nathan, with whom she hopes to reunite in Paris someday. Jojo writes a letter to Elsa pretending to be Nathan—telling her that he (Nathan) is breaking up with her and is now tongue kissing” with someone else.
But Jojo’s drive to become Hitler’s most trusted confidante takes a turn south when he suffers a mishap with a live grenade during Nazi youth camp. Now, at the tender age of 10, he’s saddled with a half-crippled leg and a network of scars on his face.
Writer-director Taika Waititi (What We Do In the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, Jojo Rabbit, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy (Roman Griffin Davis) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.
The morning after Jojo Rabbit” made its world premiere, Waititi was confused. His movie played through the roof with audiences who cheered the light-hearted but serious fable about a lonely boy and his imaginary Nazi friend. But the next day, the daring film was hovering in the 50s on Metacritic That doesn’t always matter with Oscar voters (see blockbuster Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody,” Metascore: 49). Searchlight introduced Jojo Rabbit” at TIFF for a reason: they hoped it would score rapturous audience response and the coveted People’s Choice Award won by their eventual Oscar-winners Slumdog Millionaire” and 12 Years a Slave.” And so Jojo Rabbit” did, on its way to passing $20 million at the fall box office. To get to Best Picture, a movie has to grab attention, become a must-see hit, and play well for the Academy voters. Jojo Rabbit” is well on its way.
That begins with Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a 10-year-old who just can’t wait to be an active member of the Third Reich. There’s nothing that excites Jojo more than the opportunity to show his boot-stomping stuff at a Hitler Youth retreat, and with his trusty make-believe Hitler (Waititi) by his side, he’s super-enthused about getting in the swing of Jew-killing things. Whether pumping himself up in the mirror or hanging out with his mates, Jojo talks a big bigoted game, although he turns out to be, deep down, a good person—something we first learn when he balks at his teenage superiors’ orders to kill a rabbit (hence his nickname, shorthand for coward”). If that weren’t enough to make us emotionally side with adorably lively Jojo, his subsequent act to get back in his comrades’ good graces does: running and leaping in slow-motion through the woods alongside fake Hitler, and grabbing a grenade from the hands of Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell) and throwing it like a pro.
Where Waititi really outdoes himself is the movie’s bright, humanizing aesthetic. For most of the movie, we don’t see drab black and white clothing or bombed-out cities We see an incredibly stylish Johansson taking bike rides with her son through verdant fields. We don’t hear tragic, orchestral music. We hear a whimsical score and The Beatles and David Bowie auf Deutsch.
Jojo continues to interrogate Elsa, learning she has a boyfriend called Nathan with whom she wants to reunite when the war is over. Jojo forges a letter from “Nathan” which claims that he has found someone else and wants to break up with Elsa. Hearing her crying, Jojo writes another letter retracting the first one. Jojo and Hitler argue, with Hitler insisting Elsa is a monster. Later, while on one of his metal collecting trips, Jojo spots his mother leaving a “free Germany” message in town.
The ridiculousness begins to give way to the film’s emotional center, mainly through Jojo’s relationship with his mother. Jojo eventually begins to understand why his mother would risk everything to keep this girl safe, even though it goes against everything he thinks he believes in. He learns about trust, compassion, and what it means to be human. All things incompatible with being a Nazi.
Taika Waititi’s polarizing Jojo Rabbit is an awards season contender. Here are behind-the-scenes facts about this imaginative comedy. For several weeks, Jojo Rabbit was the best film I had seen in 2019. (Then, Little Women happened.) So I was more than a little surprised when grim reviews started cropping up.
Writer director Taika Waititi, brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, JOJO RABBIT, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother is hiding a young girl in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, Jojo must confront his naive patriotism.
If there was a category for weirdest movie of the year, the Oscar nominated Jojo Rabbit would be a contender. Written and directed by Taika Waititi , the comedy-drama follows a young boy (Roman Griffin Davis) whose only goal in life is to grow up to be a Nazi. He even has Hitler (Waititi) as his imaginary best friend. But when he learns that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic, his life is turned upside down.
While Griffin Davis may be the standout, because he’s the lead, all the young people in the film are excellent. As Elsa, McKenzie goes from scary to scared, and from strong to vulnerable, in the blink of an eye. She gives a much more nuanced performance than her counterpart, but it’s warranted, as she’s the older character and tasked with a much more nuanced role playing someone, unlike Jojo for much of the film, all too aware of the horrors of Nazism. Then there’s Jojo’s best friend Yorki, played by Archie Yates, who is so absolutely incredible with his quick wit and perfect comedic timing, that he effectively steals the whole movie.
Jojo Rabbit thrives as both an intrepid satire and a sincere coming of age dramedy, seamlessly blending wacky humor with genuine heartbreak. Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare told Insider that Taika Waititi banned cell phones from his “Jojo Rabbit” film set.
Jojo Rabbit is a creative flex so extraordinarily misguided that I fear the age-old Hollywood tradition of rewarding filmmakers for delivering financially successful films by writing them a blank cheques to pursue passion projects might be discontinued. It is the most well-made bad movie of the year. This is not, however, a conclusion that I have come to overnight.
In Germany at the very end of World War II, a 10-year-old boy named Jojo (Robert Griffin Davis) is excited to be a Nazi. He doesn’t really understand the ramifications of what being a Nazi actually means, but he’s so excited to be part of something that he has Adolf Hitler himself, played with joyous idiocy by Waititi, as his imaginary friend.
Jojo Rabbit stands in an uncomfortable place between a comedy and a drama. The film is moralizing, but it is also packed with dark humor. It is not the satirical revisionism” I take issue with, but the film’s disjunctive tone that results from Watiti biting off more than he could chew.
This is in a way more terrifying than if monsters always matched our idea of evil, and if turmoil upended our lives to the extent that we had no choice but to stop our daily activities and confront it head-on. Waititi demonstrates that brilliantly through Jojo’s tale – and infuses it with just enough hope to soothe your soul.
Sadly, Waititi’s other films — Eagle vs. Shark, Boy, and the What We Do in the Shadows movie — are only available for digital rental or purchase. But with a full season of vampires and two movies you have a lot of silly action to watch.
Rosie, Jojo’s resourceful mother, isn’t about to let her son sit around and feel sorry for himself. So she introduces the boy to the local Nazi party and has him doing odd jobs around town—delivering mail, gluing up posters, that sort of thing. And while Jojo would much rather be doing something more spectacular for the Nazi cause, it does keep him busy.
Spoiler Warning As might be expected, Jojo eventually develops a crush on Elsa. Believing himself ugly because of his scars, he suggests that Jews might have an affinity for ugly things, and shyly asks if Elsa follows suit. When Jojo pouts that he’ll never be kissed, Elsa offers to do the deed. Jojo rejects her offer, in part because it’d be just a pity kiss and it wouldn’t count.
Jojo is also a bit odd in ways that make him a target for some of the older boys who train the kids. When confronted with killing a rabbit, Jojo can’t and runs off, thus his nickname. Jojo’s mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson, Avengers: Endgame”) is always off working” somewhere doing something. She loves the boy and tries to downplay his interest in Hitler and the Nazis. Johansson is brilliant in this role maintaining her motherly responsibilities while her priorities become more difficult.
Davis relates stories of classmates seeing the film and learning from it, and of a teenage girl telling him she was writing about it for a school project. Looking for movie tickets? Enter your location to see which movie theaters are playing Jojo Rabbit near you.
Though the overall tone is light and satiric, that mood is disrupted by scenes of significant violence – and characters are constantly in danger: chaotic gun battles with dead bodies and bloody wounds, soldiers in bloody bandages with missing limbs, and hanging bodies of people who were executed by Nazis. A sympathetic character is suddenly killed; another is held as a prisoner of war, and it’s implied that he might have been shot (viewers hear soldiers yelling at him and then gunfire). Children are orphaned; one Jewish girl talks about seeing her parents get put on a train to a place “where you don’t come back.” Young children are armed, sent into battle. A boy is told to snap a rabbit’s neck; he refuses, but another boy does it, laughing, and throws the limp body into the forest.
Waititi’s work can be absurd (“What We Do in the Shadows” is a vampire mockumentary in which the lords of the night turn out to be schmoes) or irreverent enough to upset some — even Waititi says “Jojo” is not for everyone. But some of those seemingly nutty ideas in the film come from grounded, if unusual, inspirations.
The Telegraph ‘s Robbie Collin awarded it one meagre star and deemed it a feeble, one-note Nazi comedy”. The Guardian ‘s Peter Bradshaw was none more positive, calling Jojo Rabbit intensely unfunny”. The Independent’s own Clarisse Loughrey made me feel less alone by giving the film five stars , praising it for making buffoons out of the fascists while lamenting how easily their beliefs can corrupt a nation”.
Jojo walks through the city one day and finds his mother has been hanged in the town square. Devastated, he returns home and stabs Elsa in the shoulder, then breaks down again. Elsa comforts him. In the city, Jojo runs into Yorki, now a full soldier, who tells him that the Allies are closing in and that Hitler killed himself. Jojo is shocked, and sees Rahm arming more children as the battle wages – she gives him a Nazi coat. Klezendorf and Finkel enter the fray, wearing homemade uniforms emblazoned with pink triangles. The Allies win the battle and Soviet troops round up all the Nazis to be executed, including Jojo. Klezendorf takes Jojo’s cost off and tells him his mother was a good woman, then calls Jojo a Jew and spits on him. The soldiers remove Jojo, who screams as Klezendorf is executed.
Alone at home one day, Jojo discovers Elsa Korr, a teenage Jewish girl and his late sister’s former classmate, hiding upstairs. Jojo threatens to turn her over to the Gestapo , but Elsa warns that his mother would be killed for hiding her. He agrees to keep her safe, on the condition she reveals her “Jew secrets” so he can write a book for Klenzendorf, which amuses him. Elsa plays along by making up stories about Jewish powers, such as mind-reading Angry with his mother for hiding a Jew but unable to reveal his knowledge of Elsa, Jojo accuses Rosie of being unpatriotic and laments that his father is away. Rosie dismisses his accusations and espouses her belief that positivity and optimism are the best ways to be free of oppression.