Roman with Thomasin McKenzie as the Jewish Girl
A fun, heartwarming tale about Jojo
Jerry Donato (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

Film reviews: Jojo Rabbit

MANILA, Philippines — Jojo Rabbit fulfills one’s expectations of the comedy genre (such as scenes, characters and dialogues that elicit laughs from the audience) and the art’s function to mirror a slice of life.

Directed by Taika Waititi, the movie, a satire, definitely entertains and makes moviegoers reflect on how their thoughts (beliefs) shape them and the way they perceive others.

The fun adventure starts when 10-year-old Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (played by Roman Griffin Davis) goes to a Hitler Youth training camp. The adorable character has a clear political color (which could be a product of socialization) and an imaginary friend named Adolf Hitler (Waititi), who suddenly appears in the young’s mundane life. He greets people on the street, “Heil Hitler!”

Jojo Betzler, not yet named as Jojo Rabbit, is ready for the best weekend of his life. He and fellow trainees (including his second best friend Yorki, portrayed by Archie Yates) experience how it is to be a part of the German army. 

There’s no room for lack of strength in the camp. Jojo, being singled out, is asked to kill the animal but he can’t. “You are a coward” is what they think of him. Adolf, however, tells him to show who he is by being a rabbit.

To prove his bravery, he unceremoniously takes the challenge of throwing a hand grenade and meets an accident. The unfortunate event has rendered him a  face with scars and a weak foot (that makes him limp).

Mom Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) encourages him to move on and enjoy the attention. The sense of family, as shown in Rosie’s affectionate, supportive personality, is strong. Jojo confidently faces the world.

When Jojo finds a Jewish girl in the attic is another exciting turn in the narrative. He thinks of the unknown entity first as some ghost who lives in their abode but she is as human as he is. “What to do?” He can’t tell it to his mom nor to the authorities, who will frown upon them. With the World War II as milieu, his dad is in the warfront. 

To devise a plan in dealing with a looming “war” in the homefront, he talks to Adolf who suggests that the girl (Elsa, Thomasin McKenzie) must be out. Jojo shows diplomacy, in a way, through conversing with the girl.

The talks thresh out misconceptions of Jojo about Elsa’s racial identity and personal details about her (like fiancé Nathan). They develop an unlikely relationship or a future alliance. The tension also builds up when Gestapo, a group of men in black suits, makes a surprise visit and interrogates Jojo and Elsa.

What’s touching again is the bond between Jojo and Rosie, also seen when the mom fixes the boy’s shoelace. Although she knows that her boy is a fanatic of politics and blind nationalism as one may say, she provides him some other subtle perspective in life by saying that “The war is soon over,” “Life is a gift and we have to show how grateful we are to God,” and reminding him the importance of trusting someone.

The mom keeps the girl at home and the latter reveals it to him. But what startles him the most is the passing on of Rosie, which he learns about by following a butterfly that leads him to a place in the town square, where supporters of the resistance get punished. The boy sees a familiar image and tries to make sense of everything.

What follows next is the American victory and Elsa can finally enjoy the life she has been deprived of.

Jojo fixes her shoelace and they dance.

Jojo Rabbit is a fun, heartwarming tale about a boy. And I can attest to it. Thanks to the special screening mounted by Disney Philippines. If I may add, the beauty of the comedy lies, too, in the dramatic twist of the story.

As the title and the first line of the background music go, “Everybody’s gotta live.” It is perhaps what Jojo and Rosie do beyond the narrative. They have found a sense of family in each other.

Jojo Rabbit is now showing in Ayala Cinemas at Greenbelt 3, Alabang Town Center, TriNoma, U.P. Town Center, Bonifacio High Street, Ayala Malls The 30th, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Ayala Malls Solenad and Ayala Malls Central Bloc. 

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