Jojo Rabbit

Few films have fizzled on the festival circuit faster than Jojo Rabbit – despite, or maybe because of, a pandering early promotion that begged viewers to remember that writer/director/star Taika Waititi had made “an anti-hate satire.” The studio was actually worried that audiences might think the man who helmed Thor: Ragnarok had followed up with a pro-Hitler comedy about a li’l Nazi choosing the Führer as his imaginary friend. In any case, there was pretty much bipartisan disappointment over Waititi’s latest bid to show off a big brain before returning to the Marvel factory. Jojo is a toothless tale about funny Germans stumbling through WWII, with the occasional misstep into a horrific moment. A pretty impressive cast gets wasted as Waititi marches his young hero through a really rough childhood. In the process, the script buries a bigger story about poor souls who had to hide their own identities during the madness of the Third Reich. There’s probably a lot of dark humor to be mined from that nightmarish scenario. Any attempt, however, would have diverted from Waititi’s high concept of playing Adolph Hitler as a naughty rapscallion. Self-censorship probably screwed up his original idea, anyway. Jojo Rabbit still manages to offend with some moronic pacing, plus cruel moments that can’t work as black comedy.