Rabbits look so fluffy no matter the size or breed, even if some filmmakers find them (particularly white ones) a little spooky. They stand out among the pure animals, and yes, they’re much purer than this movie that has the word “rabbit” in it. Jojo Rabbit keeps its WWII subject matter too surface level, and as much as it tries to poke fun at the horrors of Nazism, it will not remain relevant for longer than a couple of months due to its lack of craft. Another comedy that did a joke out of the war well is The Producers. A more sophisticated comedy that poked fun at Fascism and did it well is Inglourious Basterds. Will Taika Waititi’s newest feature film join the conversation of those two other classics? No way.
Jojo “Rabbit’s” cruel nickname rarely gets mentioned throughout the feature, missing the ultimate mark for the redemptive anti-hate message to leave any impact. It starts with his Nazi training camp, led by Sam Rockwell as the camp counselor, who first appears with an apple in hand (cue CinemaSins ding). He, like everyone else in this script, becomes an offensive stereotype written for chuckles that rarely land. During his time at camp, Jojo acquires a facial injury that leaves him looking like a street map (or so he says), but his scar is barely even visible. It’s not the type of plot device that can be taken seriously, as it can’t work if it’s supposed to look hideous, because it doesn’t, and it can’t work either if Jojo’s just being insecure about his appearance, because then he’s just a stupid kid.
The rest of the name-actors in this cast are only worse than the child, particularly their annoying attempts at German accents. These American actors should not have even been cast in this, heck, why does this German setting even have English as its sole language... while all their books seen in libraries are written in German? Collectively under the confused vision of the director, the kid actors underact, the adult actors overact, and the scenes of child actors talking to each other are particularly painful to watch.
An actual relationship between Jojo and his single mother would help, instead of merely saying he even has a mother at all to make more time for his unrealistic smartness to take up screentime. Right now, he is just a bad role model. There are worse moments though that the editing lingers on, including some random artsy shots that are hit-or-miss in their impact, but ultimately are quite hollow. Some of those shots, including one of campfire embers over tents at night, are among the most beautiful I’ve seen this year. Though other shots just emphasize how fake the set designs for the street exteriors are, as if they were made for a movie produced in the 1950s. That’s why then that Michael Giacchino’s score helps slow down the sloppiness, which plays to uplift the symbolic free motifs of butterflies, his mother’s dancing shoes, public hangings on the street, and yes, even rabbits. When disregarding the random use of Beatles music translated into German, the music is effective enough.
For a motion picture where the visual focus wrongly goes to the distracting wallpapers, a little focus grasps the senses. Some of that focus includes when the skittish Jojo is forced to kill a rabbit for his camp; it stirs up fury well to justify his eventual relationship with the Jewish girl in his walls. Although this relationship does turn disturbingly pedophilic (he’s only ten, she’s engaged), these attempts convey how a child saw the horrors of WWII.
So yes, things do enlighten the mood; there is “rabbit” talk when learning how to tie shoelaces, and one of the few chuckles include a parade of black-suited men who take turns greeting with, “Heil, Hitler!” The light mood even does what it can to try and strengthen the drama as those same terrifying black-suited men see the Jew in Jojo’s home, and she’s forced cover herself up around them. Then to cap it all off right before the end credits, a Ranier Marie Rilke quote proves why war is a poor end goal.
But sadly, the Son of Saul type of masterpiece this yearned to become remains ingrown. The whole good that came from WWII was the strength that humans are capable of: it did not stop most survivors from giving up on themselves, as some saw trauma as motivation to help others in need, and to raise awareness for future generations. As a result, the darkest era of recent human history generated millions of dense survival stories that prove why Waititi’s effort disrespects over six million Jews. Not even he is able to complete his own symbolic images in the story by connecting rabbits to how Nazis virtually saw Jews as multiplying pests who take resources. Hence why it’s advisable not to watch the forgettable Jojo Rabbit, as the production crew clearly learned nothing about either the past or the present. Many other worthwhile WWII films out there immensely respect the cinematic arts, even Darkest Hour proved Winston Churchill’s scary similarities to president Trump. Watch those instead.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Brody, Richard. “Springtime for Nazis: How the Satire of “Jojo Rabbit” Backfires.” Digital image. The New Yorker. Condé Nast, 22 Oct 2019. Web. <https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/springtime-for-nazis-how-the-satire-of-jojo-rabbit-backfires>.
Jojo Rabbit. Fox Searchlight Pictures. Web. <http://www.foxsearchlight.com/jojorabbit/>.