Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Film: 'Jojo Rabbit'

Here's a film like no other, no other that I've seen, anyway. Taking comedic potshots at wartime German Nazis has been old hat in films since, well, WWII itself, but here's one that not only looks at it from inside that organisation but has, as one of its main characters, Adolf himself (played by the film's own Kiwi director, Taika Waititi) and addressed as such on first name terms by the highly impressive Roman Griffin Davis (aged 12 when filmed - and living with his family not far from where I'm writing this, in fact), who's playing a member of the Hitler Youth whose imaginary friend this ludicrously camp figure of Adolf is.

Comparisons (all unfavourable, I think) have been made with Mel Brooks' 'The Producers' (1967) which now seems to have attained the status of being one of the funniest films of all time. Although I did/do find some of that quite amusing, as with all Brooks' films I find his scatter-gun method of comedy only partially successful and, ultimately, rather wearing. (Of course, with 'The Producers' a main target, as in 'Jojo', is the Nazi Party).

This new film is set in a smallish town in Germany towards the end of the Second World War (though actually filmed in the Czech Republic in quite stunning locations). 
Having failed to come up to the ideals of Hitler Youth practice (for which he earned the film title's demeaning nickname) with its obligatory sadistic aspects as tutored by instructor Sam Rockwell (assisted by a shamelessly complaisant Rebel Wilson), Jojo is beleagured with doubts as to his fitness, which is where the appearance of his muse, Adolf, comes in to reassure and comfort the boy. His mother (Scarlett Johannson) meanwhile, has complete faith in her son's abilities, refusing to listen to his reservations, while holding a secret of her own, namely that she has hiding in their home in a small concealed room, a teenage Jewish girl (Thomasin Mackenzie) - one whom Jojo accidentally discovers and befriends. 

I thought the film started very strongly indeed, with a fresh angle on what has turned out to be a tired-out topic. Though with me that feeling didn't last long especially when it got down to playing serious, mostly exemplified whenever the appearance of the hidden girl came about. There, I'm afraid, it gave out a leaden feeling which found me starting to doze off. However, it did pick up again quite considerably with the appearance just over half way through of a ten-minute scene with the menacingly lanky Stephen Merchant playing an investigative Nazi officer with half a dozen sinister cohorts all coming to examine the mother and boy's residence, looking for evidence of Jewish sympathies or anything more tangible.  From this point on I thought the film regained some of the oomph which it had started with.
There is, by the way, at least one particularly shocking scene  (apart, that is, from the killing of a rabbit) when one is least expecting it, to be referred to again towards the film's end. The in-town battle scenes at the conclusion are quite spectacular, it must be said. Well accomplished! 

If you are attracted to a film which takes on a touchy subject quite bravely and with originality, then you should be more than pleased with this. While finding that it had considerable merit, I did wonder even while it was playing that, though it's not over-long at 108 minutes, if the comic material it contained could stand up to it being stretched out to the extent it is - and which only served to emphasise the plodding nature of its serious stretches.  
But overall, not bad at all, no way!..............6.5.

(IMDb..................8 - Rott Toms.................4.8 / 5 )  


  1. I'm glad you liked it. I found it enjoyable and thought it was well done. I thought the kid who played Jojo did a great job.

    1. It was indeed a highly polished effort, B. And you're quite right to have commended young Griffin's performance, so I've now inserted a couple of appropriate words into my text.

  2. I hadn't heard of this one until the Globes when I saw a clip and I was interested. And then my Raybeard review solidified that.
    I'm on the hunt for it near Smallville.

    1. It got virtually no pre-release publicity here, Bob (unlike 'Cats'!), just creeping in silently. Definitely worth seeking out.

      Btw: I don't know if you saw my reply to your comment on my 'Favourite Films' posting (two posts ago) but the situation remains unchanged. For some unfathomable reason it's now getting on for a month since I've been able to read your own blogs, apart from the first few words. Infuriating it is, especially since no other blog that I follow has the same scrolling problem. I'm still trying several times daily, hoping that somehow it will right itself. Meantime....:-(

    2. I think what Bob MEANS to say is he didn't know of it until reading my review, which was before the Globes, bc I KNOW he reads every word of my blog.

      (I tried to insert faux HTML sarcasm modes, but blogger wouldn't allow it).