Civilised society have many descriptors for Adolf Hilter: lunatic, psychopath, sadistic, genocidal maniac, wanker, loser, nutso, dead... you get the idea. But a new film by New Zealand comedic genius Taika Waititi ('Thor: Ragnarok', 'Hunt For The Wilderpeople') is about to change the game. I suspect you're going to hear a lot of people talk about Adolf Hitler more and more in the coming weeks and you're going to hear words like: hilarious, cute, sweet, kooky and "I love Hitler!" Due to the current social and political climate, you'd be forgiven for thinking they're talking about the real a-hole - but fear not, it's all thanks to the imagination of a confused 10-year-old boy named Jojo.
We're introduced to Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) and his führer Adolf (Waititi) from the first moments. Jojo is giving himself affirmations in the mirror, gearing up for his first day of training camp in Hitler's youth army. Adolf decides to get the blood pumping by having a Heil Hitler-off, and they're so jazzed they run feverishly through the streets in excitement. And off we go. At the training camp, we get our first glimpse of Jojo's conscience when he's unable to kill a rabbit, earning him the nickname Jojo Rabbit. Later, in an effort to prove everyone wrong, a mishap occurs with help from his negligent superior officer Captain K (Sam Rockwell, 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri') where he's sidelined and left to run errands for the war officers and spend time alone at home. Here, he discovers his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson, 'Avengers: Endgame') is hiding teenage Jew Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in the walls. Knowing little about the Jewish people except the usual stuff - you know, horns, mind control, attraction to shiny and ugly things etc. - Jojo decides to use Elsa to write the definitive works on Jews and impress his superiors. So naturally, Elsa uses her Jew mind powers to slowly turn young Jojo until he's not sure where he stands or who he can trust anymore, including his mother and his best imaginary friend.
There are good films, there are great films, and there are special films - 'Jojo Rabbit' happens to be all three. If it's not the opening title sequence showcasing stock footage of masses giving he Nazi salute to a German language version of The Beatles' 'I Want To Hold Your Hand', then it's the film's brilliant young cast, a Maori Adolf Hilter with a half Kiwi/half German accent, the sidesplitting mockery and satire or Ms Johansson's finest performance since 'Her'...or last week when I watched 'Marriage Story'. She's having a really good year.
Waititi has a knack for films that are big in substance, yet humble in style. There's nothing grandiose here. There are no immense war set-pieces. We're not led to believe this all takes place in a major city or another war-ravaged town. It's about the people, actions, and making fun and shedding light on the whole sodding mess. Taika also brings to the production his platinum-level skill that is possessed by few and coveted by many - his ability to scout and direct children to great performances. It's a talent that he's proven time and time again, and 'Jojo Rabbit' is no exception. Just look at the latest spate of award nominations raining down upon the film, in particular, his lead Griffin Davis.
It's about the people, actions, and making fun and shedding light on the whole sodding mess.
Through his use of music and uncanny ability to find humour and heart in the darkest of moments, Waititi has created an everlasting story that gives the power back to the persecuted and hope to the lost. 'Jojo Rabbit' will make you cry from laughter, cry from emotional pain, and cry with hope. It is simply stunning in all its facets, and a truly remarkable and unexpected film.