Jojo Rabbit (12A) 108 minutes
Kiwi director Taika Waititi’s breakthrough to worldwide success became complete with Thor: Ragnarok, which showcased his comedic sensibilities both behind and in front of the camera. His cameo as the rock-like Kronan, Korg, was a highlight of a film littered with laughs and clever dialogue.
Waititi will write and direct the sequel for the MCU, but in the meantime he has created Jojo Rabbit, the story of Johannes (Roman Griffin Davis), a 10 year-old boy in 1940s Germany whose dreams of progressing through the Hitler Youth suffer a setback after a freak accident involving a grenade at training camp.
His blind support of the Nazis finds itself at odds with the casual cruelty and violence of his training – something he discusses at length with his imaginary friend Adolf (Waititi himself), who looks exactly like the other Adolf, minus the murderous intent and, obviously, with the mind of a child.
It’s plain to all but Johannes himself that he’s just not cut out for the Hitler Youth.
Things become even more complicated for young Jojo when he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl behind a wall in his house.
All of Johannes’ preconceptions and indoctrinated prejudices are challenged (although these opinions have certainly not been instilled in him by his mother).
“He’s a fanatic, she tells the teenage girl, unaware that the two youngsters are already aware of each other. “It took him weeks to get over the fact that his grandfather isn’t blond.”
Jojo becomes increasingly curious about their secret guest. “Where are your horns?” he asks naively – the message being that childlike innocence eventually exposes the fatal flaws in such dogma.
Mel Brooks proved 50 years ago, and Chaplin when it was all too real, that Nazis can be funny if you turn them into caricatures and that is achieved here with some notable nasty party cameos from Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant.
But it’s the director’s own comedic skills as a childlike fuhrer and his young protegee who keep that fine balance between irreverent and grossly insensitive.