The build-up to Taika Waititi’s first film after his Marvel debut with Thor: Ragnarok has been as divisive as it was highly anticipated.

Peter Bradshaw for The Guardian has called his latest, Jojo Rabbit, “intensely unfunny”, while The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin found it “absolutely hideous” and failed “to land a single meaningful blow.” 

However, I quite liked it. 

Jojo Rabbit is what Waititi described as an “anti-hate satire,” and while that description might be a bit too serious for what it delivered, which is more of a slapstick style of comedy, the film is far from unfunny. 

The intro sequence had me literally wheezing. We meet Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) early, a 10-year-old boy from Nazi Germany during the latter stages of the war.

He attends a Hitler Youth training camp with his second-best friend Yorkie and his first best friend Hitler, though totally in his imagination, played by Waititi himself. 

We are also introduced to the camp staff, which includes Sam Rockwell as Captain K, Rebel Wilson as Fraulein Rahm, and Alfie Allen as Finkel, which feel like characters taken directly from Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors.

Alfie Allen and Sam Rockwell in Jojo Rabbit
Alfie Allen and Sam Rockwell in Jojo Rabbit C: Fox Searchlight

They are, unfortunately, aren’t given much screen time and inevitably fade into the back as comedic vignettes. 

The plot gets in full swing when Jojo Betzler discovers a Jewish girl hiding in the attic of his family house. 

From the looks of it, the Betzler’s seem quite wealthy, even though Jojo’s father is reportedly fighting in Italy (though no-one has heard from him in years) and his mother (Scarlett Johansson) doesn’t work but seems to be always busy and out of the house. 

Stuck home alone after an injury at camp, and with his dream to focus as Hitler’s personal bodyguard shattered, Jojo begins to focus on a new mission.

He strives to learn everything he can about the Jews from his new roommate Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie). 

He quickly drops the uniform and his childish beliefs, that saw the Jews portrayed as bat-like creatures who speak to the devil, begin to fade. 

Through Jojo has to hold on to something, and the Nazi beliefs are everything he has ever known, he realizes it isn’t quite clear on what it means to be one. 

Jojo isn’t anything more than a little boy that likes Swastikas a bit too much. He is not a Nazi, he just wants to be in a club and belong.

It only takes not being able to be part of something with his friends to shatter his convictions. He is only 10 after all, with all children prone to being a tad fickle.

Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis
Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit C: Fox Searchlight

The film was criticised for being naïve, and yes, while some of the more simple jokes will only make the kids in the room laugh, I don’t believe what Waititi meant to deliver was an insightful and accurate reflection of Nazism and it’s contemporary repercussions. 

The Nazis are unthreatening because we see the world through the eyes of a wealthy kid away from the frontline.

Only once does the Third Reich appear in its the true menace in the form of Stephen Merchant’s looming and calmly authoritarian Gestapo agent.

The peril he brings with him has nothing to do with Nazi belief and is more simply the fact he might look to take Jojo’s only friend away. 

Hitler himself in this film sits in between the role of a playmate and an angry friend that gets jealous when their buddy gets a girlfriend. 

Between German versions of The Beatles songs, which rivals the French Bowie in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and the idiosyncratic design and cinematography also reminiscent of Wes Anderson, Jojo Rabbit is a pleasant and lighthearted comedy with few aims besides that.  

Verdict: ★★★★