JoJo Rabbit the up and coming satire takes on a tough subject but the official trailer received 30,000 upvotes on Reddit. A lot of people enjoyed it but for us we aren’t sure if it is comfortable to watch.
Adolf Hitler has a long and ignoble history on the silver screen. From the flamboyant title character of musical Springtime For Hitler (in Mel Brooks’ The Producers, 1967) to the resurrected Führer of contemporary comedy Look Who’s Back (2014), the brutal dictator has been roundly ridiculed.
The roster of cinematic humiliation for Nazi ideology is about to get a new entry – Jojo Rabbit, the eccentric tale of a young boy Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) in World War II Germany and his imaginary friend Adolf, played by Taika Waititi, who also wrote and directed. A new trailer was dropped for the Fox Searchlight release this week.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) September 3, 2019
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Waititi adapted the screenplay from Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies (2004). Set amongst the Hitler Youth – presented as a kind of deranged Scout troop with rocket launchers instead of camp fires – it throws a curveball for its young protagonist when he discovers a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hidden at home by Jojo’s mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson).
The project has generated some controversy, not least of which with Walt Disney Studios. The entertainment titan has been flexing its moral muscles with properties such as Star Wars, and a satirical curio like this hasn’t exactly been welcomed with open arms. “Halfway through one recent viewing one executive grew audibly uncomfortable,” Variety reports, “worrying aloud that the material would alienate Disney fans.”
Despite a long tradition of skewering fascism on screen, the subject matter is still uncomfortable for some viewers. While audiences are used to portrayals of Hitler as a pompous prig ripe for his comeuppance, the fact remains he was a chilling threat to free will.
With far right groups gaining footholds in vulnerable communities and war looming large in people’s minds, is now the right time to reimagine this evil idol as a children’s companion?
The best way to answer that question is through Waititi himself. Indiewire writes about his appearance at last year’s TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), where he discussed the film.
When asked “why Waititi, whose own mother is Jewish, wanted to play the role, he offered some razor-sharp insight: ‘The answer is simple: what better f*** you to that guy?’”
In fact, the director’s mother told him about Caging Skies in the first place. Waititi is said to have responded to the child-like point of view, something reflected in other works such as Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016). So for the fantasy Hitler himself, it’s personal.
Speaking to Deadline, he reveals how he gave the role the preparation it deserved – zero. “I didn’t base him on anything I’d seen about Hitler before,” he remarked. “It would just be too weird to play the actual Hitler… Because he was such a (rude word)… I think people have got to relate to really enjoy the ride.”
Talking about the film more broadly, he said “there’s a lot of comedy in it, but again, as with my other films, it’s more of a drama with a lot of light moments throughout.
I’m not even sure if it could be construed as a comedy… Having said all that, it’s the most original way I feel I would want to look at tackling this subject.”
Surreal takes are Waititi’s speciality. Known for his work with comedy duo Flight Of The Conchords, he went on to be embraced by Marvel Studios.
This unlikely partnership resulted in Thor: Ragnarok, which delighted fans and casual viewers alike with its comedic treatment of the franchise. He’s back to helm follow up Love & Thunder, set for release in 2021.
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Jojo Rabbit co-stars Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant. The movie is released on Oct 18th, when everyone can see what Waititi had in mind and experience this intriguing vision for themselves.