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Harebrained effort

Taika Waititi (left) and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit (Kimberley French/2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

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Harebrained effort

Farcical Jojo Rabbit minimizes the crimes of the Holocaust

In his autobiography, Charlie Chaplin said if he had known the horrors of the concentration camps, he could not have made his 1940 satirical film The Great Dictator. Director Taika Waititi has no such reservations. In his new film Jojo Rabbit, marketed as an “anti-hate satire,” Waititi depicts the barbarians of the Holocaust as little more than buffoons. 

The story takes place during World War II. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a 10-year-old German boy who lives with his mother (Scarlett Johansson) and discovers that she has been hiding a teenage Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), in the house. 

As Jojo talks with Elsa, his heart softens and the film could have broken through Waititi’s playing the Holocaust for laughs, but the director repeatedly falls back to portraying the Nazis as dummkopfs rather than demonic.

Some reviewers have played up several poignant plot twists, but I can’t see the concentration camps’ victims or their descendants laughing along with Jojo Rabbit. I hope modern audiences won’t, either.