22+ Jojo Rabbit Reviews – Were We Duped by Extraneous Hitler Moviegoer Bait?

Jojo Rabbit ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ is the kind of film ripe for discussion. Before reading further on this post, you really need to have already seen the film or are OK with massive SPOILERS … if you haven’t seen, just bookmark and come back after you’ve seen the film. We’ll keep a light on.

….you have been warned …

The film is presented as black comedy in the trailer, but my viewing experience was more like a coming of age during WWII drama with mostly unfunny, awkward moments. The only character and sequences I found to be even slightly humorous were the ones involving Jojo’s heavyset bespectacled friend (played by Archie Yates).

So, what’s the deal with Adolf Hitler? Let’s revisit the trailer:

Ok, does this trailer make it seem like Hitler is going to play a more important role in this comedy? Sure did for me.

And the whole burning books scene? It seemed like it might be funny in the trailer, but when it happens in the movie? Not a chair creak or any other sound in the theater. I felt deep sadness, because I love to read! They were burning information, history, creativity — yes, I realize it was a joke — but they weren’t burning them to make me laugh, they were excited that they got to burn them!

Maybe it’s the way the trailer is cut with the Beatles playing in the background that makes it all seem so much warmer than it actually comes off in the film. These scenes cut together are actually more comedic than when we see them in the movie.

So, back to the movie. You’ve seen it by now. Hitler is in it for like 20 minutes maybe.

Can anybody tell me why he was in this film except to be touted on promotional trailers?

Hitler wasn’t a central character. He wasn’t somebody with any real purpose other than a fleeting imaginary “friend.” He wasn’t as pivotal as George Burns to John Denver in Oh, God.

We’re left as viewers feeling like Hitler was used in the promotion primarily to bait moviegoers into seeing the movie. I would have seen it without Hitler dancing stupidly around in the trailer. Actually, didn’t need him in it at all.

What did the dreamy Adolf Hitler really add to Jojo’s story? Was Hitler necessary for any of the scenes? The rabbit explanation scene could have been handled by the Nazi commander who took a liking to Jojo. Why not him as Jojo’s friend?

No, we get Hitler. One of the most evil, despicable people to ever have walked the earth.

And the dream-Hitler changes as the war grows closer to an end in the film. Did we need to see the fancifully portrayed Hitler changed to the evil Hitler when the audience knows the monster was evil personified all along?

My positions is that Hitler was extraneous to the story. He seems to have been a marketing tool. A shill to shock and awe moviegoers into wanting to see the film.

A cheap attempt for the director/writer to be able to be controversial in the trailer, to create social buzz around a dark, divisive figure. Conversation like I’m now having right now to drum up publicity for the movie.

Suckers, we took the bait.

Agree/disagree?

Adolf Hitler was indisputably an inhuman monster. There isn’t anything funny in this life or probably the next few million years about this creature in human form. Hitler is a useful prop piece for horror, maybe some sci-fi and scattered other genres, but he doesn’t work for comedy unless we’re laughing at him. Not for me, anyway. And certainly not in this film.

Let me get real and personal for a moment. My grandfather flew B-17 bombers in WWII. My grandmother was a telephone operator. Her brother died at 18 years old fighting Hitler’s malignant Nazi forces. I doubt seriously Nana, as we lovingly called her, would ever laugh at Hitler as portrayed in Jojo Rabbit. Doubtful that she could. I’d ask her, but she’s gone from this earth. Soon most of the people who lived through that nightmare won’t be with us any more.

I can find no laughter in the history of the systematic slaughter of Jews nor especially the evil puppeteer overlord master, Adolf Hitler. That red, white and black swastika is a painful reminder that millions and millions of human beings died because of this one man and his dangerously insane beliefs.

As for book burning. Think about that. What would Hitler say about movies like Jojo Rabbit? You wouldn’t be able to see it! He would never have allowed such “allied propaganda” to be produced, much less shown. That film would be in the fire along with everybody associated with making it.

Hitler as portrayed in Jojo Rabbit would have been blasphemy in WWII Nazi Germany

Taika Waititi is 44 years old and from New Zealand. He might have grandparents, as he’s not that much younger than I, who were around in World War II. I wonder how humorous his WWII-living relatives think of him using Hitler to promote his “black comedy” film? The answer is his mother is Jewish (see the Jimmy Kimmel interview below), so she supported this film. Go figure.

Not even Jimmy Kimmel’s laughs seem heartfelt or real in this interview with Taika Waititi

I’m not here to tell other moviegoers what they should like or dislike, only to share my opinion of how I felt. Art is subjective and it is entirely possible that my perspective isn’t shared by the younger generation (maybe not even some my own age) who may not realize just how nightmarish the war was and how many young people lost their lives fighting for freedoms we now enjoy. Freedoms for me to write posts like this. Freedoms for Taika Waititi to make movies with him starring as Hitler and people to freely go see and enjoy them — or not. The sword of freedom slices both ways.

Peace is taken for granted until you no longer have it.

Am I saying Adolf Hitler can’t be spoofed? That Hitler should never be in movies? Of course not! Adam Sandler did him much better by shoving pineapples up his skirt-wearing ass:

Now this was both stupid and funny, thank you Little Nicky

So, that’s my primary item for discussion: was Adolf Hitler’s character necessary (as depicted) in the movie? Did his inclusion add anything whatsoever? For me, the answer is a gigantic NO. Jojo could still have idolized Hitler by fawning over his pictures and speaking about him with the same impact. We didn’t need scenes showing dream-Hitler for the film to work.

If we can set that all aside, I really enjoyed most of the rest of the story.

Thought it was clever and creative. I take some issue with Jojo’s Nazi allegiance. Yes, I realized children in Germany in these times were brainwashed — along with many others — but I would like to have understood a little better why Jojo so desperately wanted to be a Nazi from the get-go. We’re just supposed to accept this, and I would like to have understood Jojo’s motives better. Perhaps a scene or two, however brief, explaining why he wanted to be a Nazi.

The ending would have been even more powerful if the audience understood Jojo’s odd aspirations.

As for Roman Griffin Davis, the actor playing, Jojo? Excellent job. Waititi was fond of his performance:

Waititi said, “The thing about Roman is he cares so deeply about other people. He’s extremely sensitive and extremely kind. The character wasn’t born a Nazi. The things that make you fall in love with Roman exist in Jojo; they’ve just been covered over by this other thing for a while. So that’s what you’re aiming for; getting back to the kid you fell in love with.”

‘Jojo Rabbit’ star Roman Griffin Davis gets the film’s message – Los Angeles Times

Scarlett Johannson also does a great job as Jojo’s mother. Wasn’t she lamenting being typecast into hyper-sexualized roles in her career? Ahh yes, but fortunately, that was somewhat blown out of context (imagine that, interweb!) here is what Scar Jo actually said:

“I feel when I was working in my early 20s and even in my late teens/early 20s, I felt that I sort of got, somehow, typecast. I was very hyper-sexualized,” she said. “Which, I guess, at the time seemed OK to everyone. It was another time. Even though it wasn’t a part of my own narrative, it was kind of crafted for me by probably a bunch of dudes in the industry. And I guess that worked then, but it was really difficult for me to try to figure out how to get out of being an ingenue or the other woman, because it was never anything that I had intended.”

Scarlett Johansson Regrets Being “Hyper-Sexualized” Early in Her Career

Yes, I get what she’s saying now. Always seek for the full quote. Get the context!

Anyway, this role is about as far from that type of role as one could be. She’s no Black Widow character here. She’s Jojo’s conflicted, but sweet loving mother. I felt she played the role with the right sense of hesitation and it only made the “shock scene” in her shoes that much more dramatic. Scar Jo should seek out more dramatic work like this, even if/when it’s couched as “comedy.”

Reviews by Others

Let’s see, so far, what other moviegoers think of Jojo Rabbit. Keep in mind that some/many of these reviews contain spoilers.

Did I miss your review? Use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs. Yes, even those who disagree with my reviews and vice versa.

Recommended

  • Irus: “Watching Jojo Rabbit made me laughed, made me wonder and made my heart skipped a beat and sank.”
  • Joel Alexander (Grade: B+): “I daresay any movie can claim to both have Hitler as a central character and be one of the funniest movies of the year, and I can think of no other person but Taika Waititi who would successfully pull this off.” (ed. how can a “central” character have only 20 min screen time?)
  • Christene (Grade: A+): “This is something I thought I’d never say: Hitler was my favorite. OMG, every moment of his screen time had me in stitches!! This spin on him was so perfect that I’m going to watch it again. I’m going back tonight just to enjoy it.”
  • f/stopreviews: “Quaint, dark, and a little puzzling, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit is probably the best movie I have seen all year.”
  • Fresh Film Takes (3.5/5): “With beautiful cinematography, and wonderful dialogue that echoes the greatness of Mamet, here’s a film that utilizes one of history’s darkest hours to teach us all a valuable lesson: “to err is human.” Now, the title might dismay some reticent movie-goers, but let me reiterate something: Jojo Rabbit is cinema at its most creative.”
  • Sydney/Film Student Watchlist: “A quote from my friend Kylie, ” Hitler really stole the show in this one”.” (ed. how ironic!)
  • Cinema Spotlight (5/5): “Using one of modern history’s most notorious hate groups and its infamous leader as the subject of a film about tolerance is actually pretty ingenious.”
  • Cameron Richardson (9/10): “Originality, great acting, hilarious, beautiful dynamics between our main characters, and just an overall joy to watch this movie is.”
  • Chriso Ruins Movies (4/4): “Remember this movie is about how ridiculous the Nazi’s were, and how ridiculous blind hate is. But as ridiculous as they were, they did many horrible, awful things. Thankfully, Jojo Rabbit does not lose sight of that within its silliness.”
  • Jonah’s Daily Rant: “…a fantastic film, equal parts hilarious and gripping. This is my favorite movie of the year, and any movie that hopes to topple it is going to have a hard time! This movie opened my mind and heart, then climbed right inside!”
  • Jared Jzyk (8.3/10): “…perfectly combines drama and comedy in ways not many films can. I can definitely see some people not liking this movie given it’s subject matter but I think more moments in history should be given this treatment. Sometimes comedy and poking fun at something in its absurdity is a great way to look at things.”
  • Darren Johnson (4.5/5): “The only major flaw in “JoJo Rabbit” is Rebel Wilson. The film could have easily done without her five minutes of over-the-top hysteria.”
  • From the mind of Victor (3.5/5): “Fortunately for Waititi, some might be offended either way (see above). And a lot of us will no doubt laugh. He’s a particular type of weirdo, that Taika, successfully turning something awful and serious into something outstandingly wacky. He is funny enough in the role, too. Alas, the next Chaplin he is not. Yet.”
  • sickflickblog (7.5/10): “Everyone is grate besides Rebel Wilson. This movie is more of a dark comedy and I think it works for the most part.”
  • Brett Garten (8.1/10): “Definitely out in left field, but that’s what director Taika Waititi does best.”
  • Tyler Hummel: “You’d think that would be overly serious and unbearable, yet it’s immensely funny. The film is a complex dance of darkness and humor interwoven together to lighten what would otherwise be a relentless film. As edgy as the premise seems, the film makes it an easy pill to swallow merely by being very funny. This proves to be a powerful contrast to several other recent, left-leaning comedians. There aren’t any references to modern politics”
  • Film Frenzy (3/4): “With its inclination to bolt from comedy to drama and back again at whiplash speed, it’s easy to see why Jojo Rabbit would upset many. Yet those inclined to movies with a dark comic bent should find it to be a rather savory stew.”
  • One Scene at a Time: “Waititi’s talent and strange, black humor is what made 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok one of the most absurd, but successful films in the superhero canon and The Hunt for the Wilder-People an enjoyable movie to pop in. Even at its boldest, there is a strange, sweet humor in his storytelling that this film maintains even when the tone shifts. And it does.”
  • Orthodoxy in Dialogue: “This movie left me with messages of hope and redemption, however. There is hope on the other side of anger and despair, but there is a journey to get there. Mistaken ideology does not need to be a permanent life choice.”
  • Holmes Movies: “…a film that truly is going to divide people into two groups: those that will love it and those that will hate it. And I hope there are a lot of people who will love it and see and understand the message behind the film and discuss it afterwards.”

Not Recommended (or unclear/undecided)

  • Critic for Hire (2.5/5): “If there was anybody else attached to direct this, I sincerely doubt it would be getting the positive reception that is getting.  The only time I really laughed at this was Waititi as Hitler, but he is only in the movie for about twenty minutes at the most.  This is one of the biggest letdowns of the year for me.”
  • Logan Coleman Film Reviews: “The film in my honest opinion has a hard time balancing the comedy and drama elements of the film. The film has elements of Inglorious Bastards and the Constant Gardner. I am going against most other film critics; I am giving this film 6 stars out of 10.”
  • Matt Vetrano: “Do I recommend it?  It’s hard to say.  I’m leaning towards no, but then so much of this is tied up in my own feelings about the way things are going right now that may not be shared by everyone.  Then again, if you DO feel the way I do about current events and the climate in which this movie was made in, perhaps waiting for a home release would be the more prudent strategy.  “
  • swampflix: “…ultimately just didn’t feel as confident or personal as Waititi’s previous experiments in light-and-dark tonal clashes. It’s the first time I can assume one of his films didn’t fully achieve whatever it set out to accomplish.”
  • Alan French (2/5): “…it squanders a unique premise and delivers a perfectly serviceable, if not poorly executed film about war. Like an imaginary friend, we’ll move on from Jojo Rabbit with little reason to look back.”

Let me reclarify that I liked this movie and recommend that others see it.

Just like the other critic popular indie film, Parasite ⭐️⭐️⭐️ I don’t love it. Was not my favorite movie of the year or anything. If some of the things I mentioned above had been done differently, than I would have rated it higher.

I enjoy when filmmakers take risks, applaud and appreciate originality. Sure, they might stumble sometimes, but it’s better to take risks than to be boring. Nobody likes watching boring films. Taika Waititi took some amazing risks with this film. Some paid off, others didn’t.

Now, if you like, let’s discuss Jojo Rabbit. Do you agree/disagree with my criticism? What did you like and dislike, if anything, about the film? Please keep it civil, folks, or we’ll have to conjure some pineapples!

2 thoughts on “22+ Jojo Rabbit Reviews – Were We Duped by Extraneous Hitler Moviegoer Bait?

  1. I like risky cinema, I like breaking down barriers, and I like it when Taika Waititi, a favourite director of mine, finds ways to creatively insert himself into his movies, as he did in Thor Ragnarok – again, a small part, but he has comedic genius of his own and I always want to see it.

    I think, in part, Hitler was used in the marketing to serve as a warning. It lets people know that this movie is not like others. It won’t be for everyone and that’s okay, but if you don’t think you can find a way to laugh at this stuff, at least you’ve been amply warned in the trailer that this is to be expected.

    Loved the movie when I saw it at TIFF, can’t wait to revisit it now that it’s in theatres.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking time to comment. Much appreciated. Allow me to respectfully ask a few more questions and hopefully you’ll be able to answer when/if you have time. I’m not trying to be argumentative, simply looking for another opinion and perspective.

      I do see your points and guess if Hitler was only there as an edgy warning in the trailer as you suggested that: SENSITIVE MATERIAL IS AHEAD, then why not just dispatch with him in the film after one or two brief scenes, why drag him back into scenes that didn’t advance the plot or make any really good jokes? (nobody in the theater made a sound when Hitler was on screen — the jokes didn’t land at least in the theater audience I was in) Just sort of the crazy old uncle character, played by Taika himself, which seemed like he was inviting this type of criticism?

      And where is the comedy when Jojo’s dissident mom is hanging from gallows? A lady started crying next to me in the theater. Nobody was crying in CADDYSHACK or AIRPLANE! or NAKED GUN … what is this kind of strange comedy that Taika Watitit embraces in his films that I’m missing? Is he wanting to create a new subgenre of comedy that weaves between (heavy) satirical (light) comedy and (powerful) drama? That is a fascinating concept, if that’s going to be his style.

      What Taika seems to have surmised is nobody would see the film as a straight drama a la SCHINDLERS LIST. Maybe in future films he’ll venture even further than here? He could have made a truly important film with true staying power instead of something fluffy and forgettable once the gimmicky awkwardness and newness fades (and comedies that aren’t truly laugh out loud funny don’t have much staying power, historically).

      Like

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