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Friday, January 10, 2020

Jojo Rabbit

By Liz Wolfe - January 10, 2020 at 07:00AM

Who do you invite to see a black comedy about the Third Reich, one that opens with Rebel Wilson and Sam Rockwell teaching prepubescent campers how to burn books and blow stuff up with grenades?

Jewish director Taika Waititi tackles the story of Jojo Betzler, a 10-year-old boy at a Hitler Youth camp, whose invisible friend—Hitler himself—accompanies him everywhere. Jojo's moral paradigm is complicated when he realizes his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house and he develops a crush on the fugitive.

The film is playful and dark, with a well-placed David Bowie dance scene to pull you out of the sinking misery that sets in during the last act. Through an indoctrinated child's eyes, Waititi reminds viewers that blind allegiance to any regime only makes sense if your worldview is too simple to match reality.

It's nowhere near as timeless as The Producers when it comes to making workable comedy from hideous evil, but Jojo Rabbit shows that a politically risky premise can pay off if the storyteller is smart and skilled enough. At a time when we cancel artists based on drive-by descriptions of their work ("Nazi satire with Hitler as a little kid's invisible friend"), this worthwhile film reminds us that doing so means losing our ability to poke fun at history's worst monsters.


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