Jojo Rabbit’s got an imaginary friend and it’s none other than Hitler.
Jojo Betzler, the 10-year old Hitler Youth, finds out that his mother is part of the resistance movement and that he was hiding Elsa Korr, a teenage Jewish girl. Jojo is bent on uncovering Elsa’s “Jew secrets.” Trouble is, Elsa has no horns and is certainly does not look like the devil. Worst, Jojo is falling in love with her. What would his best friend Hitler say?
There’s a scene in this movie where “Heil Hitler” is said 31 times. It shows not just the ridiculousness of that action, but also the film’s intention. In “Jojo Rabbit,” I was reminded by Armando Iannucci’s satirical black comedy “The Death of Stalin.” But Jojo’s story is much lighter, and while it is a comedy, like Iannucci’s Stalin, there’s nothing funny about it.
The target of this Taika Waititi film are the Nazis. Sure, but it was too easy. Those Nazis reflect the modern-day fanaticism of Trump’s white supremacists, the supporters of the evil president in Brazil, or the funnily foolish fans of the dictator in the Philippines. “Jojo Rabbit” shows us how their propaganda works and the extent of its foolishness. But it did not extend beyond that, beyond the leaders who think that these are very fine people. That’s the difference of Waititi’s film to that of Iannucci’s. There’s also a danger to this approach of humanizing the supporters and at the end, making the resistance the antagonist in the story. I think the movie should have made this clear: there are no very fine people on the side of racists.
The imaginary Hitler here is comical and represents the indoctrination of the young Jojo to the Aryan supremacy belief. Jojo here is a 10-year old boy who was forced to question his beliefs when he finds out that her mother was hiding Elsa Korr, a Jewish girl. Posing the arguments in a young boy’s POV is a masterstroke. If only every white supremacist has a Jewish girl to make them see sense.
Sky god Worthy (5 out of 5 stars). Through the eyes of a 10-year old, “Jojo Rabbit,” in its own way, gives us a look of how evil, if left unchecked, spreads in a society: funny and sad at the same time. There will always be criticisms (on both sides) when it comes to films like this, but the important thing is that the message has been sent. To white supremacists and other similar forms of evil behaviors around the world: we are watching.