Taika Waititi’s new comedy about the Hitler Youth…
This should be a fun film.
Set in Germany in the last year of WWII, a young boy called Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is inducted into the Hitler Youth, completely buying into their ideals. When he discovers a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his mother’s room, his new Nazi ideology is challenged not only by her and his mother (Scarlett Johansson), but also strengthened by his new imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler himself (Taika Waititi).
The plot is very evenly placed. We’re taken through a few weeks of Jojo’s life, and aside from a few minor obstacles here and there, the plot moves fairly smoothly. There is a “gut punch” mid-film, and it is handled incredibly well among the comedy throughout. That’s something I like about Taika Waititi’s films. Very cohesive plot structuring, and nothing is superfluous, with a universal moral at the end, as a bow to his movie-presents.
My PLOT RATING is 4/5.
Davis gives a great performance as Jojo, and shows the character arcs perfectly. The film is mostly through his perspective, and he gives unintentional insight into how honestly stupid the Nazi Party can be.
McKenzie’s performance is excellent, as a wise-beyond-her-years survivor and a teacher, teaching both Jojo and some scant few members of the audience that we’re all just humans, no matter what we all believe in. She also is crafty and has guile in some scenes, just to stay a step ahead.
Waititi is a blast here, not only having snappy and poignant dialogue, but clever sight gags and laugh-out-loud moments as well. He’s clearly having fun with his role as antagonist.
Johansson is outstanding, playing “the fun mom” who is acutely aware of Jojo’s behavior and plays into him to show him that life is not all about the Nazi Party, but about being a child and having fun. She really exudes personality and love, and it’s nice to see her in a role that isn’t always stoic.
Other players are Sam Rockwell as the Youth Leader, who seems to want nothing to do with teaching (and has a great backstory), and Rebel Wilson, playing a boisterous nurse that cares more about the war than the children, let’s say…
Stephen Merchant also plays a delightfully creepy authority role that makes me wonder why he has been “the nerdy guy” for so long and not used for his height (or too-calm smile).
The true standout is Archie Yates’ Yorki, who was a delight to see every time he was onscreen. He gives an innocent, yet hysterical worldview into his surroundings and asks questions that completely tear apart the Nazi ideology when you think of them. He is the Nick Frost to Davis’ Simon Pegg, and I’d love to see Yates in another film soon.
My CHARACTERS RATING is 5/5.
The dialogue is snappy, witty, fast-paced, and incredibly clever. The jokes leave room for pause and thought, and the dramatic scenes are written with precision so as to puncture the heart.
My DIALOGUE RATING is 5/5.
Slow-motion effects, explosions, not too many blood effects, yet they are all pretty standard.
The set design is also pretty good as well, portraying Germany quite nicely.
My EFFECTS RATING is 3/5.
The German version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” plays at the beginning, and aside from the score, not many other songs play. Most of it is standard, but really good, it’s Michael Giacchino after all.
My MUSIC RATING is 4/5.
While this film is really good and it has a great lesson, there is not much to separate it from other films as far as effects, music, and character archetypes. The plot is great though and the dialogue and casting is excellent.
My OVERALL RATING is 84%.