Taika Waititi has hit the mainstream after his colourful rebranding of Marvel’s mightiest Asgardian; taking over cinemas with his vibrant satirical comedy set in WW2 Nazi Germany. The charismatic director has managed to leave audiences questioning how okay it is to laugh at Nazi’s and nab a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars – along with five others – while he does it. There is little chance that it will win any of its bigger awards, but does it deserve to be even teased with so many golden statuettes in the first place? Simply put; Nein!
Waititi has offered up a slice of cheerful cinema, in this chuckle-inducing and ridiculous incarnation of the utopic Nazi doused streets. Yet Jojo Rabbit has to be Waititi’s most disappointing film. While it goes for laughs and strives for emotional gut-punches, it never has you keeled over to the success of What We Do In The Shadows, nor does it have the emotional resonance of The Hunt for the Wilder People. It shows every sign of being a passion project, yet it falters with the overbearing sense of Waititi’s creative voice.
In the search for some fun escapism, Jojo Rabbit will fit the bill. This is still a film full of character yet often the wackiness of a young Nazi’s life perspectives and the ridiculousness of terribly accented Nazi instructors take precedent over a focus in the story. Of course this is a comedy so a heavy and water-tight story isn’t expected, however occasionally dipping its toe in more serious story beats, Waititi falters with a lack of focus and an unwillingness to linger in these moments; which can often leave them feeling overlooked and unsatisfyingly brief.
Despite these flaws and its fleeting effect in comparison to any of his other films, Jojo Rabbit is still undoubtedly a joyful experience. Smiles were commonplace in the cinema as Waititi himself bounded around with childish flair as young Jojo’s imaginary friend, Hitler. Jojo, played by Roman Griffin Davis, is full of charisma as the conflicted Nazi, slowly realising that Jews might not be the terrifying bat-like creatures he has believed them to be. Thomasin McKenzie as a Jewish girl in hiding Elsa, is equally charming and rounds out this excellent and youthful central duo. From an overly polite Stephen Merchant to the adorably innocent Archie Yates, Jojo Rabbit’s sports a stellar supporting cast, with Scarlett Johansson acting as the emotional centre in her excellent if brief performance.
Jojo Rabbit is another endearing addition to the eccentric director’s roster, filled with some ridiculous comedy and brilliant performances. It lets down however, with its surface level storytelling, despite having a deeply interesting one to tell. Jojo feels like the next evolutionary step in the filmmaker’s career, as he further develops a niche style that while not similar, is comparable to the work of Wes Anderson. It does raise the issue of style over substance, and while Waititi still manages to wrap Nazi jokes, war time propaganda and wacky dancing into a coming of age story, he does so with a lot of glitz but a lacking amount of bang.