Although I had a vivid imagination, I did not have an imaginary friend as a child, a phenomenon that is common in film and TV fare. Writer/director/actor Taika Waititi took the theme in an interesting direction in Jojo Rabbit (2019), which I watched last night courtesy of Netflix. A ten-year-old German boy’s imaginary friend is his hero, Adolph Hitler. His life changes when he discovers a secret passage in his home in which a teenage girl is living. Of course, she is Jewish, housed there by the kid’s mom. Broad satire, it has an endearing quality despite rarely imparting a sense of reality, which is how I reacted to Forrest Gump (1994). Like that movie, it’s heart is always in the right place. Its best assets are the performances of the young cast members, Roman Griffin Davis in his debut as the boy, apparently a natural, and Thomasin McKenzie as the girl. Solid support is provided by Scarlett Johansson as the mother and Sam Rockwell as a sympathetic German officer. Almost all the other players are broad caricatures. If any group deserves lampooning, it’s the Nazis, which Mel Brooks did so well in The Producers way back in 1967. Waititi juggles the blend of fantasy and horror as well as possible. He deserves credit for daring to tackle the Holocaust in a different way, although I imagine he took some heat for it, as Brooks did decades ago. Although this was my first encounter with his work, he is in the midst of an impressive career and his plate is full into the foreseeable future, including a stint at the helm of yet another Star Wars episode. He has an interesting background, born in New Zealand, his dad Maori, his mom Ashkenazi Jew. The flick’s running time is an hour-forty. The violence is largely sanitized. The title refers to an incident from a Nazi training camp. Nominated for six Oscars, it took home the prize for Best Screenplay Adaptation, done by Waititi himself. It is based on a novel by Christine Leuens. Waititi also played Hitler. 219,000+ users at IMDb have rated Joj Rabbitt, forging to a consensus of 7.9 on a scale of ten. On a scale of five, I rate it 3.25. Made on a budget of $14 million, it returned $90 million. Its appeal would be largely for those who at this stage, after so many works on the subject, would prefer a toned down depiction of Nazi horror that still delivers the point on its evil. Another interesting aspect is the use of modern music, the German versions of the Beatles’ I Want to Hold Your at the start, and David Bowie’s Heroes at the end. The latter fit as well as any song ever used on a soundtrack. The picture concludes with a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, whose poetry is central to the narrative: “Let everything happen to you / Beauty and terror / Just keep going / No feeling is final.” Here are the leads in character:
Is the Planet of the Apes series far-fetched? Here’s a headline from nypost.com that says maybe not: “Monkeys steal coronavirus blood samples from lab worker.”… Here’s another interesting and understandable one, given the times: “People rent by-the-hour spaces to escape loved ones, homes during lockdown.”… And here’s a sad though unsurprising one from foxnews.com: “Black firefighter ‘devastated’ after rioters destroy bar he spent life savings to build.”… And even a liberal bastion isn’t immune from the insanity: “CNN headquarters in Atlanta vandalized by protesters.” Apparently, the station isn’t left wing enough… I probably shouldn’t but I feel sorry for the mayor of Minneapolis. To have one’s ideals blow up in one’s face must be very painful.
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