WWII comedy proves successful

Alice Webster, Student Editor

Many comedians have bemoaned how difficult it is to be funny and unoffensive these days, but writer and director Taika Waititi managed to do both while also playing infamous dictator Adolf Hitler. In his newest film Jojo Rabbit, for which Waititi earned both an Academy award and a BAFTA for best adapted screenplay, Waititi tells the story of Johannes, or Jojo, Betzler, played by Roman Griffin Davis, a young boy in Nazi Germany who idolizes the Nazi party, not fully understanding its meaning. Giving him frequent advice is his imaginary friend Hitler.

The concept of Hitler as Jojo’s imaginary friend was entirely Waititi’s creation; thus, the production team felt he was the only one who could do the role justice. They were certainly right; Waititi’s portrayal of the imaginary Hitler as whiny and codependent paints the dictator in a perfectly unflattering light and his cartoonish and childlike nature means that the audience never forgets that he is just Jojo’s imaginary friend. Waititi’s portrayal of Hitler has another layer to it, as he is of Jewish descent on his mother’s side. Waititi described his acting choices to USA Today by saying, “I had no interest at all in portraying him authentically. I didn’t want him to have the satisfaction of knowing that someone studied him, studied every nuance of his physicality … I don’t think he deserves someone making that much effort.”

Jojo’s boyhood is a key factor in the film, contributing much of its whimsy, including but not limited to Waititi’s Hitler. As a child indoctrinated by an evil regime, Jojo sees things completely in black and white without reason for most of the movie, despite his mother’s attempts to subtly educate him. Only through human interaction and kindness does he eventually grow to understand that the ideology he has blindly followed and the leader he idolized are wrong. Jojo is, for most of the film, not a very likeable character, which makes his eventual growth all the more satisfying.

The supporting cast is just as phenomenal as the leading players, with stars like Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, and Sam Rockwell as officials at the Hitler Youth camp Jojo attends, Scarlett Johansson, who expertly plays Jojo’s charismatic mother Rosie Betzler, and rising star Thomasin McKenzie, who plays Elsa, a Jewish girl hidden in the Betzler home who is discovered by Jojo and forces him to challenge his perceptions. Each character adds their own pinch of humor to their scenes.

Overall, the story of Jojo Rabbit is both heartwarming and hysterical. Taika Waititi’s many talents shine in the film and it is certainly deserving of the accolades it has collected.