The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

JoJo Rabbit

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4 Chicks Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
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JoJo Rabbit | Taika Waititi, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, Alvy Allen, Stephen Merchant | Review

An odd title for an odd film. Makes sense when you think of director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows; Thor: Ragnarok) casting himself in a supporting role as Adolf Hitler; a taller, fuller-faced, Hitler who sometimes slips into Waititi’s native New Zealand accent. Waititi is half Maori/half Jewish; and here, he is Adolf Hitler. In the words of Alice on her Wonderland adventure, this just keeps getting “curiouser and curiouser.”

The titular lead is 10-year-old Johannes (Roman Griffin Davis) whose mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is a supportive, somewhat eccentric woman full of wisdom and a big secret. Johannes is steeped in the nationalist sentiment of the time – Germany, nearing the end of World War II - and regularly attends Hitler Youth activities, full of calisthenics, grenade and knife throwing, and dashing through the woods in an attempt to be ferocious.

Adolf Hitler is Johannes’s imaginary friend, who appears when things get confusing. Not that Der Führer provides any direction. This Hitler is a slightly zany dude who advises Johannes on how to think. Such a good, little Nazi, that Johannes, until he’s put to a very cruel test involving an innocent rabbit amidst rabid Hitler Youth troops and their leaders Captain Klenzendorf, Frau Rahm, and Finkel (Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and Alvy Allen). This small atrocity explains how Johannes got the nickname, JoJo Rabbit, and how his growing alienation makes him question firmly embedded beliefs.

When Johannes finds Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) a Jewish girl, hiding in his attic, his orderly life and blind obedience to the Reich is challenged. When Nazi officials, led by the insanely tall and sinister Captain Deertz (Stephen Merchant) arrive to search the house, loyalties are tested. Through it all, Hitler appears as a uniformed playmate, spewing flawed logic and absurd observations.

If you’re thinking that this is simply a broad comedy, you’d be so mistaken. The horrors of war are not ignored and pop up at the most unexpected times. There is cruelty and death among the absurdity. There is agony nestled among the farcical posturing. There is evil and love and loyalty and barbarism. It is as serious as it is humorous. Just when you start laughing, expect a sobering throat punch. A surprising kindness late in the story shows us that there just might be a man among these monsters.

Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie carry the drama, while Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson are effectively caricature-like in their portrayals. Listen for Wilson’s “O-M-Gott!” Watch Rockwell and Allen hold eye contact for just a little too long. See Waititi take Hitler from buffoon to frenemy. Stephen Merchant steals his lone scene as the skull-faced Captain Deertz, and Scarlett Johansson sparkles as Johannes’s wise, brave mother.

Writer/director Taika Waititi serves up a swerving roadmap full of detours into a myriad of emotions. You are jerked into the extreme, whether ecstatic, or devastating. You will meet somber Nazis, zany Nazis, acts of compassion and intense savagery. Waititi braids and blends these into an unsettling but ultimately stellar ride, the pacing of heights and plunges unnerving, but once off, you wouldn’t mind riding again.

This is a war movie that incorporates humor. This is a comedy that incorporates a war. In Waititi’s hands, JoJo Rabbit is a startling study in opposites, and a true original in a world of endless remakes and sequels.

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