Young JoJo is the happiest little Nazi “in ze warld”. He walks around town, hailhitlering everyone with a gleeful smile on his face. His mind, like any child’s who is growing up in a certain place and time, is completely the surface appearance of that time and place. H He and his best friend, Yorki, as part of the Nazi youth, and are attending a sort of Nazi youth summer camp, to further indoctrinate themselves, unknowingly. JoJo’s other friend is an imaginary version of Hitler, played by the magnificent Waikiki. Set to learn how to hunt, kill, shot, and learn about all those dangers that the “devilish” Juden present, something goes very wrong for the young SS wannabe. JoJo fails to kill a rabbit, gets the nickname rabbit and almost dies in a cartoonish grenade accident.
Not being able to support the war effort directly, he is forced to do his share of the work at home. But things aren’t as great at home as they seem. His mother is harboring secrets, working for the resistance, and even hiding a Jewish girl. Bit by bit JoJo will learn about how the world and Germany for that matter really operates. Disguised between the various form of satire, hides a equally heartwarming and heartbreaking coming of age film. Sadly, for JoJo, coming of age in the darkest and most destructive age in human history.
The movie, comedy and satire that it is, does a wonderful job of balancing emotional beats and impacts. It is not afraid to linger on particular shots, take you out of the silly Hitler jokes and show you the real world as it was back then, with people being hanged in town squares. In a way, it reminded me a lot of ways Gintama is. Both are silly in premise, but when they have to deliver emotional, heartfelt moments they both equally land the punches straight to the jaw of your heart.
JoJo Rabbit is a film with a whole slew of fantastic performances. Scarlett Johansen who plays Jojo’s mother gives one of her best performances, topping every single emotional beat she gave during every single of her Marvel films. Also, the twists with her, didn’t see them coming, especially the final one. Both JoJo and Yorki give good performances, JoJo as this naïve, pure Nazi, slowly transforming himself into a proper person, and Yorki as this matter-of-fact presence in his life.
Sam Rockwell is once again great in this older mentor role, that he I think first performed in the Way, Way Back. He seems to have a knack, this way of his to portray vulnerability from past, regretful experiences that make him so ideal, full of compassion for these roles. Here he plays an officer who runs the Youth Camp. While not as much in the foreground as in the Way, Way Back, he still manages to steal scenes and deliver a memorable performance. Waikiki as Hitler is Mel Brooks level brilliant. Its hard not to overshot it when you get so ridiculous with the densest embodiment of evil the world has ever seen. The performance could have easily been just bizarre, laughably bad, but Waikiki delivers every single scene with the perfect tone. His direction is marvelous in this this film. One thing that really struck me upon watching is his eye. He has a very unique talent for constructing a scene, both in terms of the central and background elements, and combing them with different pallets of color. Very excited to see how that develops. There’s no excess fat in any of the shots. Not only that but all of them have a lot well thought out technical, visual elements that make them enticing.