Jojo Rabbit

Critics Consensus

Jojo Rabbit's blend of irreverent humor and serious ideas definitely won't be to everyone's taste -- but either way, this anti-hate satire is audacious to a fault.

79%

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Total Count: 278

96%

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Verified Ratings: 2,922
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Movie Info

Writer director Taika Waititi (THOR: RAGNAROK, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE), brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, JOJO RABBIT, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy (Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.

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Critic Reviews for Jojo Rabbit

All Critics (278) | Top Critics (46) | Fresh (219) | Rotten (59)

  • "Jojo Rabbit" is a smart, accessible, inclusive film that opens doors at a time when many are slamming them shut. It's a celebration of the gift of life that's inviting you to dance with it. So dance with it.

    Nov 3, 2019 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • The ingredients are appetizing but the final mixture curdles.

    Nov 3, 2019 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • There's a deep and sincere sweetness in the work of writer-director Taika Waititi. It's a kind of relentless and innocent good cheer that persists in the face of horror - to the point where the horror is obscured, or maybe defanged.

    Nov 1, 2019 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Waititi manages to walk the fine line between fantasy and drama, humor and wartime horror without losing his balance.

    Oct 30, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Jojo Rabbit draws upon the past to make salient points about the state of the world today, with Waititi urging us (sometimes in not so subtle ways) to pay attention to history...

    Oct 25, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It's Waititi's ability to balance unassailably goofy moments with an acknowledgment of real-life horrors that makes the movie exceptional.

    Oct 24, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Jojo Rabbit

  • Nov 07, 2019
    My favorite film thus far in 2019, Jojo Rabbit is a powerful anti-hate satire. Funny, but smart enough not to let the Nazis get off the hook, with a storyline that takes the audience to some deeply poignant and serious moments. Heartfelt, hilarious and witty to the extreme, Taika Waititi's unique, graceful film could have gone horribly wrong in the wrong hands. Luckily, what we have is a cinematic gift. Rating: 92
    Bradley J Super Reviewer
  • Oct 28, 2019
    Writer/director Taika Waititi has played a vampire, an intergalactic rock monster, and now perhaps the most challenging role of his career, Adolf Hitler. Coming off his meteoric success with the MCU, Waititi is using the time in between mega-budget Thor sequels to write/direct/produce/co-star in a smaller daring indie comedy. Jojo Rabbit follows a young German boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Dais), during the last year of World War Two. He fantasizes about having an imaginary Hitler (Waititi) as the voice over his shoulder, reinforcing the teachings of adults and authority figures. His worldview is challenged when he discovers a teenager hiding in the family's walls who just happens to be Jewish. Jojo doesn't know what to make of Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), nor does she know what to make of him, and Jojo decides to keep her presence a secret to spare his doting and put-upon mother (Scarlet Johansson). Jojo tries interrogating this wily girl but ends up learning more than he ever imagined. Given the subject matter, setting, and overall tone, it's a wonder how well Jojo Rabbit works. I was worried about what kind of tone the movie would be striving for given the delicacy of its subject matter, not that other filmmakers have shied away from incorporating comedy into Holocaust settings. I don't mean this to be overly flippant but for portions of the movie I felt like I was watching "Wes Anderson's Nazi Germany." The entire Act One camp sequence feels like a warped deleted scene from Moonrise Kingdom. I was genuinely surprised how often I was laughing with Jojo Rabbit. Waititi can be hysterical as a bratty, temperamental version of the Fuhrer, but there are moments where he gets caught up in the oratory of his hateful rhetoric that serve as a reminder that even for Jojo, he realizes this man isn't exactly best friend material. The Hitler imaginary friend goes away for long stretches in the second half as the film emphasizes more drama, which is the right choice as Jojo is coming to doubt what he has been taught from that imaginary friend. The portrayal of Hitler might be offensive to some viewers but I feel like Waititi walks a fine line to root it from the perspective of childhood fantasy. It's taking the figure on TV and adapting it to suit the needs of a lonely kid wanting to belong. Of course he'd want Hitler to select him as the best little young Aryan that Germany has going. It's not dismissing the evil of the man but instead serving him up through a specific prism that allows laughter not necessarily even at Hitler himself but at a youthful and immature understanding of something far more complex. I was also worried that the comedy might dampen some of the more dramatic turns coming, and this was so not the case. There are dramatic moments hiding under the surface thanks to seeing them from Jojo's naïve perspective, but then there also big obvious dramatic moments of suffering that hit. As much as the whimsy prevails early, the dramatic moments are delivered in tasteful ways that do not detract from the feelings being felt by the characters as well as the willing viewers. There are a few gut punches that remind you that even with the whimsy of childhood naivete, real people are dying in awful ways because of those complicit in racist genocidal policies. The relationship between Jojo and his mother is the second most significant one, after he and Elsa, but it's this central focus where we see the starting point of his character arc. His mother tries to shield her child from the larger terrors of their society but that's increasingly difficult when people are being hanged in the street for helping Jews. She's hoping to simply play her part in public, get through this terrible time, and finally have the son back that she knows, hoping he will eventually shake free from the propaganda. It's a role that requires Johansson to play like another cartoonish adult, all bubbling energy and quirky nonchalance, while burying her increasing concern. Part of me almost wishes that she was a co-equal protagonist so we could get an even richer perspective to contrast more fully. There's a sprightly whimsy to the proceedings that comes from being locked into the perspective of an imaginative child. It's not that the world is 100 percent his vision, it's more that we know that the representation of what we're seeing might not be a completely objective reflection of the reality Jojo is encountering. This especially includes the portrayal of many adults involved in various levels of the Nazi party. They play out like cartoons and buffoons but are still dangerous cartoons and buffoons. When Jojo's childhood friend Yorki is talking about fighting on the front and we see him handling a rocket launcher, this is clearly an exaggeration of the desperation of the moment and a young boy's eagerness to be involved. This creative approach allows Waititi to dabble in the fantastic and keep his audience alert, allowing them to second-guess what we're seeing on screen and look for the reality in hiding. I laughed pretty consistently at the intended humor and incredulous nature of the adults trying to pass off wrongheaded insights and suggestions as scientific fact or common sense. It's a movie where you laugh at the ridiculous idiots while hoping that the idiots won't get the people we care about killed. The acting is very strong overall. Newcomer Roman Griffin Davis is exuberant and relatable without coming across as overly cloying or mannered, which can be a rarity for child actors. He has a very difficult role to play from a tone and perspective standpoint, and he succeeds. Another great child actor is Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace) as Elsa, a young girl in an extremely vulnerable position who looks upon this new boy with equal amounts fear, disdain, and pity. She cannot be herself and must choose her words and responses carefully, so it's a guarded performance of restraint but McKenzie is fabulous in quieter, subtler shifts. The adults are all enjoyable as broadly comical cartoons, with Stephen Merchant (Logan) earning considerable unease as an S.S. officer leading a team sweeping for Jews in hiding. Johansson (Avengers: Endgame) seems a little too eager, a little too antic, but this may pertain to her character's nerves and desperation, trying to overcompensate her anxiety. Rockwell (Vice) gets the biggest adult role as a disenchanted military vet who sees the writing on the wall. At first his detached nihilism is a source of dark comedy and later he becomes an unexpected father figure for Jojo. I don't quite know if his hero moments have the desired impact but he's still an amusing presence. However, there are also some drawbacks to being a fable, namely a lack of larger specific substance beyond general lessons and general characterization. Jojo Rabbit is being billed as an "anti-hate satire" and I definitely think that summary fits the intent, but "anti-hate" sounds like such a nebulous buzzword that seems more meaningful at first glance and less upon reflection. I would assume every responsible story set during the era of the Holocaust would adopt an "anti-hate" sensibility, because the alternative would be championing the foundations of Nazism. It's hard for me to imagine any movie desiring a public release being anything other than "anti-hate." Essentially, we have a character coming to see through the propaganda of the era, judging people as people rather than scary caricatures, and start to reject the teachings of manipulative authority figures. This isn't a new formula for coming-of-age stories or tales set during times of great strife. It's a lesson in empathy and rejecting dogma on its face. When it comes to Nazism, that should be the easy part, facilitated by any prolonged exposure to anyone previously deemed an undesirable. My nagging issue with Jojo Rabbit is that for all its impish whimsy with such a serious historical subject, it ultimately plays things pretty safe. That's fine, it doesn't have to a revolutionary film, but it does dull the message a bit when the ultimate lasting takeaway is "hate is bad, Jews are people too." It's a bit pat, a bit simple, and a bit too easy. The characterization can also be hampered by this same ethos. The characters are pretty much exactly what you see at first blush. The only character who changes or has room to explore is Jojo. Even Elsa feels more like a stagnant person despite her unique circumstances. This may be because she's more change agent than character, a figure for Jojo to be horrified by, then entranced with, and finally see as a friend. I still felt moments of genuine emotion for characters onscreen and for Jojo's journey of self. The movie still works well with its stated goals and direction, it's just a bit limited because of the simplicity of its message and the lack of greater substance for its many characters. The Jojo Rabbit novel was written before the rise of Donald Trump but Waititi has said that when they were filming that America's current political climate was on his mind, and it's not hard to make a few adaptations to apply this for the modern era. Perhaps a young boy sees Donald Trump as his imaginary friend and together they're both all-in on trying to "make America great again" by first and foremost reporting any immigrant they see as illegal. Then later in the story he discovers his family is willfully hiding an undocumented child from being deported after they were stripped from their parents who were then deported. Now our naïve protagonist must reconcile the harsh rhetoric he has been taught with the growing empathy of connecting with another human being who doesn't seem as dangerous or as sub-human as others claim. If you wanted to even make this parallel, it's there, though I think that diminishes the setting. We shouldn't need to tell movies during the Holocaust as metaphors for our modern struggles. I suppose this is another scenario where if you want to Inuit more of a relevant modern message, you can. Jojo Rabbit (a nickname that seems forgotten after its christening) is a coming-of-age fable with equal parts charm and horror. Waititi takes a serious subject and doesn't mitigate the evils of Nazism with his portrayal of a daffy imaginary Hitler. The production has an admirable swagger to it as it charts its own course, tackling serious subjects and young whimsy to portray a poignant story about childhood, loss, and growing up. It's an amusing and heartfelt enterprise that I can't help but feel could have done more than settling for some pretty safe messages and limited characterization. There wasn't a moment with Jojo Rabbit where I wasn't entertained, but I do wish the movie had more on its mind that reminding everyone that hate is bad. Nate's Grade: B
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • Oct 19, 2019
    Mix together The Producers, The Tin Drum, Hope And Glory, Moonrise Kingdom, Life Is Beautiful, The Diary Of Anne Frank, Hogan's Heroes, Inglourious Basterds, and anything Monty Python and you still would not come close to describing the wondrous tone and sheer brilliance of Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit, the winner of the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and one of the best films of 2019. A scabrous comedy set during Hitler's occupation of Europe, the film, based on the much more sober novel, "Caging Skies", approaches this stain on history through the eyes of a heavily indoctrinated young boy. As such, we experience a fresh, hilariously inappropriate yet ultimately powerful and moving take on the subject. Roman Griffin Davis stars as Jojo, a 10-year-old who, at the outset, appears hellbent on killing as many Jews as he can. After a stunning title sequence in which the German-language version of The Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" plays over images of the screaming throngs of people who worshipped Adolph Hitler, little Jojo attends a Hitler Youth program training camp. Led by a ridiculous trio of trainers played by Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen and a really funny Rebel Wilson, Jojo faces the first of many challenges when ordered to kill a rabbit in front of everyone. Beaten down by that incident, he conjures up a type of solace via his imaginary friend, Adolph Hitler, played to delirious comic perfection by Waititi himself. This version of the dictator feels as if it's been filtered through the "Hey girl, let's dish" school of impersonations, with Waititi intentionally turning Hitler into a jackass almost as self-obsessed and thin-skinned as our current POTUS. Is the weight of history mocked here? If the film only had slaps, slapstick and schtick on its mind, I'd say so, but Waititi draws you in with outrageous comedy only to pull the rug out from under you later. It's an awe-inspiring tightrope walk. Jojo lives with his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), who on the surface presents as a perfect, Aryan specimen, but harbors secrets of her own. Not only is she part of the resistance to the Nazi's agenda, but Jojo discovers she's hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) inside the walls of their drawing room. Jojo promises Elsa he won't tell his mother he knows about her as it could easily lead to her doom. McKenzie, so great in Leave No Trace, proves that film was no fluke. She commands her scenes here with a scary confidence, like a cross between the Feral Child of the Mad Max films and Blake Lively in A Simple Favor. Fast on her feet and quick with a knife, her Elsa feels in charge of her fate. The film explores Jojo's conflicted feelings when he slowly realizes the Third Reich is a house of cards built on a very shaky foundation. Waititi draws out suspense in many different ways in the film, with multiple characters in danger of being caught for being Jewish, or a traitor, or just a bad Nazi. All of this, however, gets wrapped into one big comically absurd package reminiscent of Mel Brooks at his finest. Try not to laugh during a scene in which dozens of "Heil Hitlers" get passed around as a large group greets each other. This scene, however, oozes with dread as multiple characters risk exposure. That Waititi can walk that fine line of comedic bliss and stomach-churning horror simultaneously, serves to announce him as a major talent. Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. employs a very Wes Anderson style of composed images, but in this case, the camera moves give the film way more energy than expected. He also gets tremendous scope despite a limited budget and a film which largely takes place in Jojo's home. There's also a wonderful montage of buildings whose windows look like watchful eyes looking down on a hopeless society. None of this would work, however, without the wonderfully focused performance of Waititi's little star. It's rare to encounter a child actor who doesn't mimic his scene partners, and Davis stays sharp and committed to maintaining the intelligence and dignity of his Jojo. He may be dead wrong about whom he idolizes, but his humane spirit shines through anyhow. Archie Yates, another young newcomer, steals every scene he's in as Jojo's best friend Yorki. His exasperation at how tiring war can be made me laugh out loud. Johansson delivers a crisp, lovely performance, gorgeously containing her emotions at times when lesser actors would be hamming it up to the back rows. She leads her wrongheaded son around as if she were a teutonic Mary Poppins, clucking and winking at him, gently prodding him away from his sickening ideologies. I mean this as high praise when I say she makes it look so easy. Obviously a comedy set during the Hitler era comes with high stakes, and this film tonally shifts towards one gasp-inducing reveal. Trust me, you'll know it when you see it. Most filmmakers would wallow in such moments as this, but Waititi keeps the comedy coming while he deftly incorporates true emotional depth. It all leads up to a truly lovely, simple final scene that moved me to tears. With Jojo Rabbit, Waititi tells us that comedy can save the world. Satire exposes the buffoons, humanizing them in a way that takes away their power. Instead, films like this take on that power, and when in the hands of such a singular talent, it makes you feel like you can take on anything….even the trainwreck world we currently find ourselves bemoaning.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer

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