Review of Reviews JoJo Rabbit
This is a film that dares you not to enjoy its material pleasures, even as you wonder if you should be laughing quite so hard at the jokes. Silly, bouncy and jam-packed with the most offensive anti-Semitic tropes this side of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Jojo Rabbit is a constant bait-and-switch, as its naive young hero succumbs with gung-ho goofiness to the unspeakable costs of blind loyalty and then, gradually, begins to snap out of his nation’s mass psychosis.
Jojo Rabbit, although set in the past, puts forward a political idea in the present tense. The film is being marketed as “an anti-hate satire”, and for once, advertising is truthful. The movie is not substantially about Nazi Germany but uses it as an allegory for current-day expressions and politics of hatred. Waititi displays a sort of wan humanism in which Jojo’s fanatical Nazism seems excusable, or at least understandable. No less than Joker, Jojo Rabbit is another contrivance on the theme of “hurt people hurt people”.
How to describe the brand of comedy served up by Waititi in this markedly odd film? It’s by turns rude, flippant and aggressive, sometimes laced with clever wordplay and not overly sentimental, either with the kids or at the end, despite the built-in potential for it. He manifestly loves to show off his cleverness, to pose, to grandstand. Still, as did Chaplin, he leaves plenty of room on this occasion for his young co-star to excel and fully remain at the centre of the story.
Some argue such comic treatment of stories from the Holocaust is never acceptable. Others suggest Jojo Rabbit is just not funny enough to make the risk worthwhile. Nothing is more subjective than comedy, but the often broad, sometimes sly satire worked throughout for this writer.
It takes nothing from the horror to point out that it springs from idiocy. The manic tone, suggestive of Wes Anderson with a screw loose, reflects a child’s perspective without implying any trivialisation of the wider history. and Rimsky-Korsakov’s String Sextet in A at 1pm. And the final concert, of Mozart’s String Quintet in D, K593, Hindemith’s Clarinet Quintet and Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, is in the Newman University Church on St Stephen’s Green at 4.30pm.
RTÉ NSO/George Jackson National Concert Hall, Newman
Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit.