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Non-Review Review: JoJo Rabbit

JoJo Rabbit is a sincere and sweet movie, but also a hopelessly misguided one.

There’s a lot of warm humanism underpinning Taika Waititi’s adaptation of the novel Caged Skies, about the eponymous young boy who finds himself wrapped up in the propaganda of Nazi Germany. Johannes Betzler is a ten year old boy with who fixates upon being “the bestest, most loyal little Nazi [Hitler will have] ever known.” He has even fashioned his imaginary friend in the form of Adolf Hitler. However, his life is turned upside down when he discovers a Jewish girl living in the crawl space in his dead sister’s bedroom.

He’s going to be Fuhrer-ious.

Waititi’s film has a surprisingly solid grasp of tone, given the material in play. JoJo Rabbit is sweet and sincere, pointed and humane. It is as playful as Waititi’s work on The Hunt for the Wilderpeople or even Thor: Ragnarok, but also appreciates the need to handle certain topis with care and consideration. There’s a warm empathy that radiates from the film, particularly in the dynamic between Jojo and his mother Rosie, who is doing everything she can to protect her son even as she watches his radicalisation.

However, despite all of this, JoJo Rabbit hinges on a fatal miscalculation. It is a story that makes a conscious effort to humanise its Nazi subjects. It is a film so rigourously invested in affirming JoJo’s humanity that it never quite confronts the audience with the horror of his denial of that humanity to others. JoJo Rabbit is a film that suggests the greatest human tragedy in the Second World War is the poor little Nazi boy, and can barely bring itself to look at the actual horrors that he inflicted.

He ain’t Hitler, he’s my buddy.

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