Directed by Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit tells the story of a fanatical member of the Hitler Youth in the last days of WWII who is forced to question his devotion to the cause when events land closer to home. The gag is that Jojo is a ten year old boy, and Hitler is his imaginary friend. The disappointment is that the film is completely empty.
With an aesthetic that leans heavily on the cinema of Wes Anderson, and Nazi officers that have goosestepped straight out of ‘Allo ‘Allo, the film struggles to find it’s own feel and the few moments of laughter that do pop up have no actual attachment to the context (not hard when there isn’t one). This is also true of the drama. The antagonists in the film are drawn so widely that they have no power and exert no danger whilst one moment of intended heartbreak is so divorced from the perpetrators that is is rendered almost meaningless.
Jojo Rabbit reads like a movie made by a culture so dominated by a comic book sensibility that it is now incapable of discussing actual ideas. A movie where a murderous, nationalist, racial insanity is neatly compartmentalised down to a bunch of cartoon idiots. Of course, cartoon Nazi’s have been done before but spend five minutes in the presence of a film like To Be or Not to Be (1942) and you’ll see the difference. Ernst Lubitsch’s film has a lot of broad strokes, the Nazi’s are preening, idiotic in their devotion, even clownish, the humour is dark, but he never lets us forget the danger. In contrast, Jojo Rabbit just doesn’t seem interested in anything outside of the central conceit and, as a result, there is nothing there.