It’s never easy making a movie about the second world war, the subject is loaded with emotions, grief and a lot of pain. It’s also never easy to make a comedy, a joke is about as subjective as a favourite ice cream flavour and there’s a lot of pain involved. It’s even harder to make a comedy about the second world war, and therefore even more impressive that Taika Waititi managed to pull this off.
Waititi rightfully took home the Oscar for best adapted screenplay during the 92 Academy Awards, since his WWII comedy about a boy – Jojo – who’s imaginary friend is Hitler – played by Waititi himself – is equal parts hilarious, honest and warm. The movie strays into the ridiculous and absurd, but never disrespects its source material, one of the most horrifying periods of history. It takes the well-worn tropes of the genre and flips them around. Gone are the gloomy, war-torn streets of a regular war-film. Instead, the colour palette looks like Wes Anderson is screaming a vague description of a town in your ear while you’re high as a kite.
The Nazis are no longer the terrifying, omnipresent, capital-e evil walking around. Instead, they’re a hilariously incompetent and over-the-top bureaucratic bunch, something of which even Kafka would say ‘’Hm, that’s a bit much.’’ Take for example the scene in which the phrase ‘’Heil Hitler’’ is exchanged at least twenty times in the span of a minute.
Taika’s typically oddball style of humour fits the movie perfectly, oddly enough, the off-beat jokes combined with some hilarious performances by a (stand-out) Sam Rockwell and Stephen Merchant bring a sort of levity to a world that really needs it. Jojo’s best friend Yorki, played by Archie Yates, steals every single scene he’s in with his combination of childlike wonder and dry wit. Even Waititi’s almost dada-esque Hitler is absolutely magnificent. Concerning him researching the role, Waititi stated he didn’t: ‘’Because the guy was a fucking cunt.’’ which is all the research the Maori-Jewish director needed to portray an absolutely hilarious satire of one of history’s most horrible people.
However, the best performances lie with Jojo and his ‘’family’’. Scarlett Johansson rightfully earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress in her role as Jojo’s mother Rosie. Never have I seen her perform such warmth, fear, hope and anger in such a ‘lighthearted’ film. One could argue that she plays the best mom ever. Thomasin McKenzie, who plays Elsa, a Jewish girl hidden in Jojo’s house, also manages to grab our attention. Instead of playing the typical war-torn Jew, McKenzie’s Elsa is confident, witty, wry, but underneath that still hopeful. A breath of fresh air that the milked-dry genre of World War II-movies definitely needed.
Maybe the story is too evident: being someone who hates someone else because of their race is a shitty thing to do. But it’s a message that needs to be told, still, again, again and again until politicians stop posting weird-ass Tweets with fascistoid lies. Waititi grabs this message by the horns in this beautiful anti-hate-satire and created a story we all can hopefully believe in.