Wednesday, 9 October 2019

LFF 2019: Jojo Rabbit

Got to be honest guys, Taika Waititi has never really set my world on fire. I like where he's coming from, and I enjoy most of his stuff (the best of it is still Flight Of The Conchords), but I've always felt that some of the jokes have been flubbed, or the storytelling has lacked a little complexity. Jojo Rabbit suffers from the same issues, but to a lesser extent, and while it's not flawless it is my favourite of Waititi's movies, and also the film I've enjoyed the most out of all the films I've seen at the London Film Festival so far (I have seen four).
It's the arse end of WWII and 10-year-old Johannes "Jojo" Betzler (Roman Griffin Davies, adorable) is a new recruit in the Hitler Youth. The cult of Hitler (compared smartly with Beatlemania under the title sequence) has indoctrinated Jojo so deeply that the F├╝hrer is his imaginary friend, played as an avuncular manchild by Waititi himself. Jojo's mum Rosie (Scarlett Johansson, adorable), however, is less keen on the whole genocide of the Jews thing, and when Jojo discovers that she's Anne Franked a 17-year-old girl (Thomasin McKenzie, adorable) inside their house, his tiny mind is addled by conflicting loyalties.

And that's it really: you can probably guess how it all ends up, so it's left to Waititi to spin his own brand of comedy out of what could, quite easily, be a straight-faced drama. It probably takes a good hour for his film to get to the point where it fulfils its potential, spending a lot of time expecting you to laugh at people like Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant simply because they are Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant. Fortunately Davies is engaging enough to carry the film without becoming annoying, and Johansson and McKenzie ground the drama while Sam Rockwell effortlessly provides the laughs in his few short scenes.
Waititi sets his film in a picture-postcard version of 1940s Germany, and characters talk in a decidedly 21st century vernacular for the most part. The obvious artifice renders the comedy fairly light and inoffensive, despite the claims that it's an "anti-hate satire"; there's not much in the way of satire going on, but there are still plenty of lols and a small amount of getting something in your eye to be had. It could do better at the whole "don't hate people just because they're different, you DICK" thing, and it could poke the "Nazis really are fucking idiots" hornets' nest a little more viciously, but Jojo Rabbit is well-intentioned and likeable enough to provide a solid 108 minutes' entertainment.

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