Comedy and World War II aren't exactly a peanut butter and jelly kind of combination. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party’s political takeover is often characterized as the darkest time in modern history, ridden with appalling ignorance and bloodshed. The time period has often been brought to the big screen with immensely dramatic films such as Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge. However, Thor: Ragnarok filmmaker Taika Waititi decided to approach Nazi Germany with humor in Jojo Rabbit.
Taika Waititi explained why Jojo Rabbit injects satirical humor to the era, namely with the writer/director donning Hitler’s mustache as an imaginary-friend version of the dictator. In his words:
There have definitely been a lot of fantastic, amazing films that have approached this type of subject from a really dramatic, very serious and earnest way. And this day in age, right now, we can’t forget what happened. And I think people kind of are. My fear is that people are going to start getting numb to the story of what happened in World War II. And I think you have to find new and inventive ways of telling that story again and again. And I think using humor and satire and subverting the message is another way of keeping people interested.
Another World War II drama may not catch eyes, but a subversive take such as Jojo Rabbit that tackles the time period with a different approach will find an audience. It certainly helps that Taika Waititi is a hot name in movies right now, as he comes off a refreshing take to Thor in 2017’s Ragnarok and soon with Love and Thunder, also starring Natalie Portman. Audiences like to be challenged and gravitate to fresh renditions in movies.
Jojo Rabbit draws in an audience with this interest to see what Taika Waititi will do with his imaginary Hitler character. Once it softens the blow of the topic with its humor, the movie still seeks to remind the audience of Nazi Germany where the horrible Holocaust occured. It’s clever to bring in an audience with laughs and an important and poignant message in mind by the end. Jojo Rabbit is also a coming-of-age story about a young boy – a universal struggle.
Taika Waititi’s words to the Los Angeles Times certainly take audiences behind the curtain as to why he decided to make the movie and approach it as he does. Jojo Rabbit has been met with open arms by critics and moviegoers alike, with a 76% Fresh score based from reviews and 97% audience score so far. After its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it won the People’s Choice Award, which many Oscar Best Picture winners (most recently Green Book) also took home.
With this in mind, Jojo Rabbit could be an Oscar frontrunner. Aside from Taika’s Hitler, the movie stars Scarlett Johansson as the vivacious mother to Jojo, Rosie, as well as Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Stephan Merchant as characters of the Nazi party, and Roman Griffin Davis as the titular 10-year-old boy.
Jojo Rabbit is now playing in select theaters.