Jojo Rabbit (2019): ‘Nazi Youth and the Joke’ – A Film Review



Okay, this must be established from the onset. Set in Nazi Germany, we have a comedy. Taika Waititi, the director behind Thor: Ragnarok brings us a comedy in Nazy Germany, Jojo Rabbit. This surprising and hard to believe idea might have more credence to it than might first appear. The Producers made fun of Nazi’s with ‘Springtime for Hitler‘ and there was also the controversial Italian hit Life is Beautiful, which is surprisingly heart warming despite the depressing nature of the holocaust. Whether it is a marketing gimmick or a story that Taika Waititi actually wants to tell remains to be seen, but it’s an interesting hook for a story that may well be original. So, it is enough of a reason to see how it fairs.


Nazi Germany

The general idea is that the Nazi’s are ridiculous. The jokes stem from taking their ridiculous ideology and stretching it ad absurdum, which works. Even for those who feel tense about the content matter, eventually would be buttered up to a laugh or two. It is quite well done. Hitler (Taika Waititi) is an imaginary character or caricature which works best to distort the viewpoint as not real but making fun of the dominant ideology, it also helps us to like a character that we perhaps thought we wouldn’t on paper. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) plays the innocent who’s been led astray so very well, which helps the character’s likability and gives him a lot of laughs. Generally, this is a superbly acted film. Scarlett Johansson as Rosie, his mother has full chance to shine. Whilst side characters like Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell) and Finkel (Alfie Allen), somehow manage a charming balance of doing the image of keeping up the pretence, but not really being a part of it.


A Matter of Tones

Jojo Rabbit, however, deals with quite serious subject matter that does need to be taken seriously. It is almost inescapable. Feeling a lot like Sarah’s Key, the serious side takes over towards the last half of the film. This takes an audience by surprise as the laughs and light hearted manner with which the film conducts itself, starts to make way for the more heartwarming moments and you begin to realise that you’ve fallen for the characters there. A particularly good performer is also Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa, putting in a wonderful performance, managing likability, emotional range, intimidating, vulnerable and, best of all, a deadpan sense of humour. It really adds to the films tension and emotional core.



Jojo Rabbit is a surprising film, running its way very close to tasteless, but falling just short of it. Actors and actresses really manage to make the film work better than one might expect. This could easily have been just plain offensive and many might find it that way. But, taking that Taika Waititi himself acts as the imaginary Adolf Hitler in the most ridiculous role of the film, perhaps says more about exactly what he’s looking to achieve than anything potentially offensive. All jokes aside, the core central story is heartwarming, then depressing as Nazi Germany films kind of have to be.



A wounded Nazi Youth, Jojo Rabbit has to stay behind where he discovers that a young jewish girl is hiding in his house, where he starts to form a friendship with her, despite his beliefs.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Elle s’appelait Sarah / Sarah’s Key (d. Gilles Paquet-Brenner France 2010)

Jojo Rabbit (d. Taika Waititi Czech Republic/New Zealand/USA 2019)

La vita è bella / Life is Beautiful (d. Roberto Benigni Italy 1997)

The Producers (d. Mel Brooks USA 1967)

Thor: Ragnarok (d. Taika Waititi USA 2017)


Further Reading

Official Site

Taika Waititi Interview

Cast Interviews

Roman and Thomasin Interview

Behind the Scenes

Ensemble Featurette

Breaking Down a Scene


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Jojo Rabbit (d. Taika Waititi Czech Republic/New Zealand/USA 2019)

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