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Jojo Rabbit, 2019 - ★★★½

I liked this a lot more than I expected to. When I saw the trailer (I think back in December, when we saw Knives Out) I was a bit freaked out by it. What’s this, you’ve got a film about a kid in the Hitler Youth, with Hitler as a character, and they seem to be playing it for comedy? This looks well dodgy.

My kids knew it was by Taika Waititi , though, and that seemed to make it likely to be OK? I dunno, but eventually I decided to give it a chance.

And it turns out to be really good. A sweet film in many ways, though with plenty of menace and darkness, as you’d expect from where and when it’s set — which is an unnamed German town or city in the dying days of the Second World War. Waititi himself plays Hitler, who is not in fact the real one, but an imaginary friend that lets Jojo, the ten-year-old title character, talk to someone about the things he can’t talk to anyone else about.

So I enjoyed it, but I can’t help asking: why did he choose to make this film? Why that story, why now? It’s based on a novel, Caging Skies , by Christine Leunens. But Wikipedia’s description of it as “the internationally bestselling Hitler Youth novel” leaves me none the wiser.

Not, of course, that there has to be a specific reason for a creator to make something. And it’s far from the first comedy about Hitler or the Nazis. But there’s just something about the idea of it — not the actuality — that leaves me a little uncomfortable, in a way that The Great Dictator or The Producers didn’t.





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