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TIFF 2019 Review: Jojo Rabbit – “An entertaining social commentary about the foolishness of intolerance”

An adolescent boy growing up in Nazi Germany near the end of World War II imagines Adolf Hitler as his best friend.

Jojo Betzler gets so caught up with the antisemitism propaganda of the Nazi Party that his imagery friend takes the form of Adolf Hitler; the fanatical beliefs of the adolescent get tested when he discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house.

A real question mark was whether filmmaker Taika Waititi could pull off a social satire or come across rather than a flippant farce.   Thankfully, he was able to achieve the former with an irreverence that is shockingly funny at times.  The absurdities of training children with firearms to be soldiers and the misinformation about the origins and habits of Jews are played to the hilt.    One has to understand that when watching the action unfold that Waititi is looking through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy; consequently, the horror trope used when Jojo discovers Elsa is appropriate.

In his first film role, Roman Griffin Davis does an admirable job of portraying a flustered and confused child coming-of-age.  Scarlett Johansson radiates as the sassy wife of German soldier and mother to the lead character.  Thomasin McKenzie is both mischievous and scared as the Jewish girl in hiding.  Sam Rockwell has great comedic timing as the misfortunate Captain Klenzendorf.  Archie Yates is a hoot as the childhood friend Yorki.  Taika Waititi goes all out to portray Adolf Hilter as an imbecile.  These elements come together to make an entertaining social commentary about the foolishness of intolerance.

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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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