Playing Adolf Hitler in a comedy is a risk. In his latest, Taika Waititi stars as a version of the dictator who is the imaginary best friend of ten-year-old Hitler Youth member Jojo Betzler. Waititi’s Hitler has bad posture, an ill-fitting uniform, a lazy accent and a nasty mind. He’s awful, but that isn’t news to anyone, least of all himself. Nothing about this Maori-Jewish filmmaker’s Hitler is to be taken as an example.
Jojo Rabbit focuses on its eponymous lead, a round-faced boy who struggles to stand out, but is blindly devoted to Hitler – even though the extent of his passion for Nazism is that he is “massively into swastikas”. It’s a reductive logic, but one that infuses the film with a sense of whimsy that feels intentional. No one is here to educate on or avenge for the horrors of the past – it’s too silly for that, but it’s crystal-clear that Waititi is laughing on the right side of history.
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