Published On: Sun, Jan 19th, 2020

‘Jojo Rabbit’ review: Joyful triumph

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JOJO RABBIT. Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis star as the mother and son in movie. All screenshots from YouTube/FoxSearchlight

JOJO RABBIT. Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis star as the mother and son in movie. All screenshots from YouTube/FoxSearchlight

There will always discomfort in allowing oneself to be endeared to a protagonist whose daydreams consist of an oddly amiable Adolf Hitler, whose bedroom is ridden with Nazi propaganda, and whose goal is to become a personal guard of one of history’s most hated villains.

Liberal anachronisms

However, Taika Waititi, the director who managed to turn one of Marvel’s stiffest superheroes into a ball of awkward fun in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), seamlessly turns Nazi Germany into an idyllic setting for a heartwarming coming-of-age tale. Jojo Rabbit is an unmitigated delightful ode to love, cleverly sourced from a time and place that has become infamous for hate.

Jojo Rabbit, adapted by Waititi from Christine Leunen’s Caging Skies, works doubly hard to earn its charms, considering that it wants a cast of Nazis, which includes a fraulein (Rebel Wilson) who unflinchingly hands a toddler a loaded firearm and her superior (Sam Rockwell) who sketches a flamboyant army uniform in his spare time, be loved, or at the very least, be amusing.

It opens with symbols and utterances associated with historic atrocities, muttered or circling around the tiny frame of Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a blonde-haired and blue-eyed 10-year old kid who seems to be the perfect poster boy for the Nazi Party’s troupe of brain-washed youngsters. Despite his adoration of all things Third Reich, he is not just innocent but also possesses an unblemished moral compass. His first test is when he is egged by teenagers to kill a defenseless rabbit.

He lets the furry animal go, which makes him an easy target for bullies who start calling him Jojo Rabbit.

It is when he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) behind the walls of his missing sister’s room that his beliefs are challenged.

NAZI INTERPRETATION. 'Jojo Rabbit' is based on from Christine Leunen’s  book 'Caging Skies.'

NAZI INTERPRETATION. ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is based on from Christine Leunen’s book ‘Caging Skies.’

Terrific production

The film’s audacious. It is liberal with the anachronisms, with its characters spouting modern colloquialisms, making all its political incorrectness more akin to stand-up comedy than real history. It can be argued that the comedy’s a cop-out, an attempt to distance itself from the obvious and pertinent edge of its narrative.

However, it is also that irreverence that makes it special. The humor isn’t there to filter the inhumanity of either hate or war. It is there to provide an irresistible counterpoint, a comforting vantage point from which the audience can fully embrace the repercussions of the divisions that have hounded history.

Jojo Rabbit is a terrific production.

Waititi has conjured a piece of Nazi Germany that seems like it was plucked out of a fairy tale instead of the pages of a bleak history book. It is whimsical and blithe, with each of its carefully constructed frames painted with the most pleasant of hues, seemingly in an effort to persuade that there is some beauty in the heart of evil.

As with the humor, the color adds heft when things get grimmer. The film balances the absurd and the real with expert ease. The film is as delightful in its display of a boy discovering the humanizing effect of love as it is harrowing in how it pits youth and innocence with the hate that is the core of war.

SATIRE. Rebel Wilson is cast a fräulein in the movie.

SATIRE. Rebel Wilson is cast a fräulein in the movie.

Lovely from start to finish

Jojo Rabbit is lovely from start to finish.

It is unflinching in its allegiance to joy and mirth, no matter how depraved and depressing human beings and their actions tend to be. It is poignant and affecting. It doesn’t allow itself to wallow in melodrama, and instead trusts that its grip on affecting innocence resounds immensely. – Rappler.com

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass.

Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.

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