Jojo Rabbit is set in Nazi Germany towards the end of WWII – the party’s over and some people are still banging on about Jews with their foot stuck in the door of a train. And no I am not comparing Ken Livingstone to Hitler. Because Hitler famously made the trains run on time.
Hitler comedy is a strange old sub-genre, counting among its ranks The Great Dictator, The Producers and Valkyrie by accident. Taika Waititi’s entry follows a young German (Roman Griffin Davis) with an imaginary friend (Hitler, to be precise) and more misconceptions about Jews than the Labour activist who thought an image of an Alien facehugger climbing the Statue of Liberty was a photo.
The imaginary friend/rabbit combo recalls films like Harvey and Donnie Darko, but the title refers to Jojo’s inability to kill a rabbit in order to prove himself – because if you can’t kill a rabbit how are you going to kill a rabbi, or at least demand to know who he’s working for on Twitter. He soon finds himself face to face with a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) and learns the error of his ways by doing what the Labour Party couldn’t: listening to her.
Into this serious subject matter Waititi inserts his idiosyncratic wit and a variety of accents, including Kiwi Hitler (Waititi) and Bristolian Gestapo (Stephen Merchant). But accents don’t matter in Waititi’s world (this is the man who built a New Zealand planet in the MCU) and his role is nothing short of Hitlarious, alongside charming turns from Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Davis’ impressive lead (and debut) performance.
Waititi’s seemingly effortless combination of absurdist comedy and heartfelt pathos makes for a smart, silly and sensitive comedy about changing your views on people – it made me think Scarlett Johansson was good, for instance. You’d be mad to Nazi it.