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There's an ongoing debate about whether or not it's appropriate to make comedies about Nazis. It could be argued that removing what makes them scary also removes their power, reducing them to nothing more than the punchlines to children's jokes. It could also be argued that it somewhat downplays the severity of the atrocities they committed if you take a truly evil ideology and simplify it down to a level similar to that of a Saturday-morning cartoon villain who ends up getting defeated by a talking dog. Lindsay Ellis has a great video named 'Mel Brooks, The Producers and the Ethics of Satire about Nazis' that explores this, and if Jojo Rabbit was out at the time it was made, I'm sure it would have been referred to.
Anyway, that stuff's all really serious, and I don't feel at all qualified to comment on it, so let's get back into familiar ground. Jojo Rabbit is really funny.
Jojo Rabbit is definitely the hardest I've heard a cinema audience laugh in a very long time, and it manages to cover an impressively large variety of comedy. Slapstick, wordplay, pitch-black humour and an abundance of lines and visual gags so absurd that it's almost surreal. I appreciate it when creators include outlandishly ridiculous jokes that most would omit for fear of breaking immersion. And Taika Waititi as Adolf Hitler, the imaginary friend of 10 year old Jojo, is utilised a perfect amount.
The story itself is predictable, but enjoyable. Jojo's childish enthusiasm to do whatever it takes to dress up in a funny uniform and be part of a club is challenged when he discovers that his mother is secretly harbouring a Jewish girl in the house, and blind fanaticism crashes headlong into natural innocence.
That said, if you're wondering about the title, I did have one problem with this film. It's a comedy/drama, not just a comedy. And when you have a cast of live-action cartoon characters, and then you try be serious, it doesn't always work. There's a scene near the end that switches tone so rapidly that it left me feeling more confused than anything else. It really hammers home the tragedy of this boy, brainwashed into believing something terrible that his heart isn't really in, and now he's in the midst of a war and people are actually dying and - hey, it's those funny guys from the Brick Joke earlier in the film! Ha ha ha! Anyway, uh, it's really sad how - oh, wait, we just had a characters death Played for Laughs! But this next one is Played for Drama. Now back to the laughs! Drama. Laughs!
But I don't think this is bad; in fact, I appreciate that Taika Waititi found a weird spot between serious and silly, and even if it didn't always work for me, it was a new experience. Honestly, Jojo Rabbit's biggest flaw is that I saw it directly after I saw Knives Out, which immediately became one of my new favourite films.
So anyway, go see Jojo Rabbit. Unless it's this or Knives Out, in which case, see that first, and then Jojo Rabbit.
...Man, it's like hearing someone recount one of my major non-fan-based problems with Thor: Ragnarok all over again.
's probably just Waititi's trademark as a director, or something. Like Tarantino and his obscure references and bare feet, or something. Except here that trademark is actively detracting from my enjoyment of the film.
Like, look at Mandy, another film I reviewed here. There's an incredible moment of Mood Whiplash about halfway through that one that really, really works because of the way the film frames it. Because the joke goes on just long enough to really let the viewer release all the tension from the horrible scene that preceded it, and because the aftermath then properly sells the character's broken pathos. It's a slow dimmer-switch transition both ways, not a hyperactive kid flicking it back and forth over and over.
I admit, the subject matter is intriguing, and hell, he makes really good looking films, but that kind of whiplash would probably just hurt the film for me rather than enhance the message the way he wants. Everybody's got their pain points.
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