It works! A comedy about Adolf Hitler, Hitler Youth and World War 2 told with feeling and a savage bite when you least expect it “Jo Jo Rabbit” is a feel good comedy with some serious lessons to teach us about life, growing up and how we change as we grow, or grow mas we change.
Part of the success of this movie lies in the casting. Roman Griffin Davis, is the perfect doe-eyed, mop haired kid who idolises an imaginary Adolf Hitler as his best friend. His large expression full eyes are soul searching. Taikia Waititi as a camp (of sorts) Adolf Hitler, Jo Jo’s bestest imaginary friend, is pure genius, whether it is in the pool in some form of aquatic gymnastics, or leaping over logs in keeping with Jo Jo’s form. Whenever he appears it is delightful. Plus of course Jo Jo’s mum (Scarlett Johansson) or the closeted Jewish hideway (Tomasin McKenzie.) or his best friend Archie Yates.
But this film has plenty to teach and there are some truely dreadful moments that bring home the seriousness of life. The moment that Jo Jo discovers the SS/Gestapo has hanged his mother is just awful, Especially the way the film shows us (through Jo Jo’s eyes) that he has found out that it is his mother’s lifeless body swinging in the breeze.
Or Jo Jo’s encounter with a hand grenade that leaves him scarred. You think it is lightweight when the grenade bounces off a tree but the consequences are very real indeed.
It is interesting that as the film progresses the Hitler imaginary friend changes and the final climatic battles between the German army and the allies in Jo Jo’s town well constructed and commented on (the paper uniform that Jo Jo’s young friend wore so proudly in the early stages symbolic of the shambles that lead to the deaths of many tens of thousands of German children.
My one criticism is that sloppy props and location work meant although Jo Jo writes with a fountain pen. The Mont Blanc mark on the pen’s top clearly shows it to be a modern pen and the road that the defeated German troops ride back through is neatly tarred with two white lines, a very modern affair. Couldn’t they just have found a dirt road? And a Mont Blank pen?
So see it if you can. the major complexes with a cinema Europe seem to have scheduled this for a 24 hour screening. Its about 1 hour 40 minutes and there should be lots of conversations afterwards.