March 2, 2020
Box Office $33.31 million;
$29.99 DVD, $37.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence, and language.
Stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates.
Writer-director Taiki Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit delivers what may be the most concise cinematic spoof of the Nazis since Mel Brooks’ The Producers.
The film has drawn some controversy for its flippant portrayal of the Nazi regime, but its dark humor succeeds mostly in demonstrating how irrational Hitler’s racial philosophies were. At its core, Jojo Rabbit is a screed against idolizing charismatic government figures who demonize others for personal power.
Based on Christine Leunens’s book Caging Skies, the film tells the story of a 10-year-old German boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who wants nothing more than to serve the Third Reich. Jojo has an imaginary friend in the form of Hitler (played with over-the-top aplomb by Waititi himself in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator), who constantly spouts Nazi talking points as motivation. At a Hitler youth camp, however, Jojo ends up accidentally blowing himself up with a grenade, scaring his face and rendering him unsuitable for most military duties other than running errands around the city as it prepares for the coming Allied invasion.
As Jojo recovers, he hears strange noises in his home and discovers a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in the attic, though he comes to realize he can’t turn her in for fear of the trouble it would bring his mother (Scarlett Johansson), though she is fervently anti-Nazi and a supporter of the resistance.
Inspired by an offhand comment by his youth squad’s commander (Sam Rockwell), Jojo studies the girl, hoping to write a book to help Nazi officers better recognize Jews in their mission to remove them from Germany. Some of the tropes spouted by Jojo and the officers in his company rival Borat in their absurdity. Over time, of course, Jojo ends up developing an affection for the girl.
Focusing the film through Jojo’s perspective allows Waititi, who ended up winning the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, to maintain a lighter tone for most of the story while veering into the more serious aspects of the subject matter when necessary, leading to a film that is both funny and emotionally affecting.
Waititi’s offbeat brand of comedy carries over into the Blu-ray’s bonus materials, particularly a very funny commentary track in which he starts off discussing the film by himself, but tires of that so he begins calling members of the cast to talk to about their experiences in making the film. It ends up being an interesting spin on the typical template for dispersing information in a commentary.
For a more traditional glimpse behind the scenes, there’s a half-hour featurette that delves a lot into the performances, sets and costumes.
The Blu-ray also includes nine minutes of deleted scenes, which is mostly extra footage of Waititi doing his shtick as Hitler, plus a three-and-a-half-minute outtakes reel.
Vudu, as it tends to do, offers a two-minute “Taika Talk” featurette with footage culled from other videos.