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Jojo Rabbit

by Derek Deskins
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Feb 18, 2020
Jojo Rabbit

Listen, doing anything Hitler related and not having it be some historically rich account of his long list of atrocities is a bold and difficult move (not to mention, potentially foolish). Furthermore, choosing to go down this path in a far more comedic manner is even crazier. That isn't to say that it can't be done, as both Charlie Chaplin and Mel Brooks have already successfully forded that river. But I suppose it's time we expand that list to include Taika Waititi, because "Jojo Rabbit" is as funny as it is contemplative and poignant.

World War II presses on and things aren't looking good for the Germans. Despite the Germans losing ground, in young boy Johannes "Jojo" Betzler beats a strong nationalist heart. While the world sees the Nazis as a symbol of evil, little Jojo sees them as something aspirational, ravenously consuming every piece of propaganda that they produce. Inspired by his imaginary friend, Adolph (a cartoonish and often friendly version of the hate monger himself), Jojo excitedly joins the ranks of the Hitler Youth. But after a training mishap sends Jojo home, he stumbles upon a young Jewish girl hiding in his house. Now confronted with the difference between what propaganda has taught him and the reality of humanity, Jojo has to figure out what he actually believes in.

Writer-director Taika Waititi thrives with coming-of-age stories. In fact, you could go so far as to say it's his genre of choice. "Boy" and "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" are the obvious examples, but the themes of an outsider coming to learn where they belong in the world are felt throughout his other films like "What We Do in the Shadows," "Eagle vs Shark," and even "Thor: Ragnarok." First and foremost, Waititi imbues his lead characters with a sense of wonder, even when they are decidedly set in their ways. A Waititi character appears stubborn but is really looking for acceptance. Jojo is no different. He celebrates Nazi culture because it is something that accepts him willingly, that is the idea of Nazism, not so much the people.

Jojo is shown to be goodhearted, yet misguided. Jojo's mother, played by Scarlett Johansson in a role that reminds us that when she isn't strapped to Marvel properties she's a fantastic actor, is his moral center, able to rescue him from his more fascistic proclivities. Waititi plays a bit more dangerously in softening the edges of the Nazi characters, making some of them borderline likable is a choice that doesn't always feel right. But that speaks more to "Jojo Rabbit's" difficulties when extended too far away from its lead character. Thankfully, these sojourns are few and brief. Waititi wisely chooses to stay with Jojo's path of growth for the majority of the time, wherein he deftly mixes humor with the struggle of growing up and the occasional note of tragedy.

The 4K Blu-ray release of "Jojo Rabbit" comes with plenty of special features to keep you occupied. There are a few deleted scenes (which all feel overly long and like exercises in improvisation), a blooper reel, and a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. The hidden gem of the bunch, however, is the feature commentary with Taika Waititi. The actor-writer-director is perpetually charming, self-effacing, and endlessly laugh-inducing. Throughout the commentary, he jokes and gives some slight insights into the filmmaking process. Feeling somewhat naked without his cast, Waititi calls several of the cast during the commentary, serving as a surprise bonus in an already great special feature. "Jojo Rabbit" is a hilarious satirical study on growing up in the most difficult of times, finding humanity in the darkest and dingiest corners.

"Jojo Rabbit"
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital Code
https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/jojo-rabbit
$29.99

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