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Blu-ray Review: JOJO RABBIT

Feb 26 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

“Concentrate, Jojo. Remember, a Jew living in your wall is better than two Jews flying around with their bat wings climbing down chimneys and eating innocent Nazis.”
– Imaginary Adolf Hitler

German 10-year-old Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) has always wanted to be a member of Hitler’s personal guard. His father has been away fighting in the war, leaving his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) to take care of him on her own. However, Jojo is not alone, he has an imaginary friend who is constantly talking to him and encouraging him in his Nazi ways. It just happens that this imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi).

Jojo is excited because he is about to join ranks of the Jungvolk—he is going on a Hitlerjugend training weekend. However, things don’t really go as planned. Jojo is a bit weak and out of shape, and when he chickens out of killing a rabbit, the other boys start taunting him with chants of “Jojo Rabbit”. And when Jojo tries to make a grand gesture to prove himself, things backfire and he nearly blows himself up, leaving his face scarred and leg wounded. The officer in charge of the training weekend, Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), is demoted to desk duty due to his negligence, and Jojo’s dreams of being a soldier are crush. Now Jojo’s only option to support the war effort is working in the office with the Captain and his assistant Fräulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson), doing thinks like walking the clones, hanging propaganda posters, and handing out conscriptions.

From a young age, Jojo was fed the Nazi propaganda, told to burn books, taught that Jews were reptile-like creatures with horns and smell like Brussels sprouts. So when Jojo discovers that his mother is hiding Jewish teenager Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) behind a wall in the attic, he instantly hates the girl and wants to get rid of her. However, Elsa is bigger, smarter and stronger than Jojo, and the two of them find themselves in a bit of a “Mexican standoff”—neither can tell Rosie or anyone else they know about the other without putting them-self in danger. And so, as the two spend time together and get to know one another, they slowly warm up to each another, and Jojo learns that Jews aren’t the monsters he was taught they were—in fact, the true monsters are his imaginary friend Adolf and his Nazis.

Jojo Rabbit has a very unique tone, doing a very delicate dance between drama and comedy, blending humor, pathos, emotion and heart. While Jojo starts off as this gung-ho Hitler youth, his mother is a constant source of purity and joy, who helps Jojo keep his balance and innocence. She’s a bit of a dreamer, and just wants the war to end so that everything can get back to normal, and her husband can return. She would do anything for her son, making sure there’s always food on the table, helping him tie his shoes, and serving as both mother and father figure to him. She’s funny and delightful, and even during this time of war, she finds time to make her son dance and laugh. She’s the perfect mother.

The film definitely has its darker moments, but these are balanced with moments of levity to help offset the drama. The film opens with a German version of “Hold Your Hand”, using footage of Hitler’s rallies to liken his popularity to Beatlemania. However, the movie doesn’t glorify Hitler. In fact, it makes him out to be more of a comical buffoon, showing just how crazy and ridiculous his beliefs, actions and indoctrinated hate actually are. And since Hitler is an imaginary friend, the film also makes use of more fantastical cutaway sequences to add to the absurdity, such as when Jojo and his mother are low on food, but Hitler is happily chomping away, with a unicorn head on his dinner plate (a callback to a seemingly-throwaway comment he makes earlier in the film).

The supporting cast is filled with lots of talented comedic actors, who really deliver on the humor. Jojo’s best friend is the pudgy, bespectacled Yorki (Archie Yates), who is a 10-year-old who acts more like a 50-year-old, and steals every scene he’s in. And playing up the physical humor are the seemingly-closeted Captain Klenzendorf and his devoted (life?) partner Finkel (Alfie Allen), and the amazing Rebel Wilson as Klenzendorf’s loud and over-the-top assistant and devoted party member. Stephen Merchant also has a hilarious scene, appearing as the head of the Gestapo.

FOX’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great. The film is beautiful to look at—it reminded me of a Wes Anderson film, with its bright, bold color palette and quirky but immaculate scene framing. The picture is clean and detailed, and the audio track provides clear dialogue and showcases the film’s excellent soundtrack, which includes many familiar pop songs, but in German. The Blu-ray disc packed in standard HD keepcase with a slipcover, and contains an insert with a code to redeem for an HD Movies Anywhere digital copy of the film. The Blu-ray disc includes over 40 minutes of deleted scenes, outtakes, and behind-the-scenes featurettes, plus an audio commentary with the writer/director/star and other cast members.


What’s Included:

Film: (1:48:23)

    Blu-ray:

    • 1080p / Widescreen 1.85:1
    • Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French (all for both feature and commentary)

    Digital (Digital movie code subject to expiration after 2022):

    • HD digital copy redeemable via Movies Anywhere

Extras:

All of the bonus material can be found on both the Blu-ray and DVD discs.

  • Deleted Scenes (8:57)
    Play All, or select from:

    • Imaginary Göring (2:06)
      Imaginary Adolf introduces Jojo to Imaginary Hermann Göring, who became a sniveling mess after his childhood friend grew up and stopped believing in him.
    • Little Piggies (3:44)
      When Jojo asks Imaginary Adolf if he thinks he’s ugly, the Führer goes off on a long “this little piggy” tangent.
    • Adolf Dies Again (3:14)
      Alternate version of the scene where Imaginary Adolf tries to convince Jojo to believe in him again.
  • Outtakes (3:26)
    This fun blooper reel finds the cast flubbing their lines, laughing, dancing, and having lots of fun on set.
  • Inside Jojo Rabbit (29:46)
    The cast and filmmakers provide a deep dive into the film. Topics include subverting the atrocities of the war by turning this into a comedy, the unique tone of the film, balancing the gravity with the humor, the cast, the relationship between Rosie and Jojo, doing the accents, improvising the dialogue, the challenge of casting a likeable member of the Hitler Youth, playing Hitler, working with the director, the sets and costumes, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with producer Carthew Neal, director/screenwriter/producer Taika Waititi (“Imaginary Adolf”), costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo, acting coach Rachel House, visual effects supervisor Jason Chen, production designer Ra Vincent, and stars Sam Rockwell (“Captain Klenzendorf”), Thomasin McKenzie (“Elsa”), Alfie Allen (“Finkel”), Roman Griffin David (“Jojo”), Rebel Wilson (“Fräulein Rahm”), Scarlett Johansson (“Rosie”) & Stephen Merchant (“Deertz”).
  • Audio Commentary by Taika Waititi (1:48:23)
    Director/screenwriter/producer Taika Waititi provides a lively and fun commentary, keeping things entertaining and informative, and sharing some fun stories about the production. However, the director often pauses to watch the film for long periods of time before resuming the commentary, leaving some pretty extensive gaps. He also nearly completely bails on the commentary for the final 30 minutes of the movie. The best moments are actually when he calls some of the actors and gets into long discussions with them about their experiences working on the film. The cast participants include Roman Griffin Davis, Stephen Merchant, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson (who joins Waititi briefly in the studio afterwards), and Alfie Allen.
  • Theatrical Trailers
    • Teaser Trailer (:59)
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:19)

 


Final Thoughts:

My Rating
Film:
Video:
Audio:
Extras:
Recommended

Jojo Rabbit is a unique film that showcases writer/director Taika Waititi’s odd sense of humor. It takes a coming of age story and wraps it up in a comedic and satirical look at Adolf Hitler. At the same time, it doesn’t shy away from some of the darker aspects of the Führer’s actions. The film features an amazingly-talented comedic cast, and young star Roman Griffin Davis is a pure delight—who knew a film could make you care about an aspiring member of the Hitler Youth?! While the film never quite had me laughing out loud, I did find it quite charming and humorous, with a touch of thought-provoking drama and realism. This is definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of Waititi’s previous work.