I originally called this piece “Age of the Lost Kits.”
If you’re wondering, a “kit” is a baby rabbit. I needed a good title with a solid rabbit pun. But god, that one was so esoteric, it hurt.
Anyway, childhood. What does Jojo Rabbit have to say about childhood?
The movie’s first act is essentially a Disney Channel movie with a morbid twist: It’s set in Nazi friggin’ Germany. The film opens with an upbeat Beatles song (I Want to Hold Your Hand) sung by a lively German boy’s choir.
Ostensibly, the choir is directing their message towards Hitler, their “father.” That’s right, the tyrant made himself an indelible part of all their young lives and those kids thought nothing of it.
The kids even collected scrap metal (for the war effort) dressed as servile robots, for Christ sakes.
After the opening credits, Jojo is talking to himself in the mirror (how many times have we seen this in film?) with an imaginary Hitler providing him with guidance (okay, how many times have we NOT seen this in film?).
Jojo’s nerves are acting up. He has to prove himself among his peers, as any 10 year-old would.
After some pep talk from Papa Hitler, Jojo takes off and enters the whimsical world of 1944 Germany. The vibrant colors of the production design encapsulate Jojo’s carefree worldview.
He attends a Boy Scout camp (Hitler Jugend, if you will). He watches a battle-hardened Army Captain comically hitting targets in ridiculous poses. He watches a book burning with a celebratory disposition with his brainwashed peers.
Put any kid in any scenario in any era, this is what they’ll see: They’ll see the world as a magical place.
Such is the indestructible nature of childlike gaiety.
Such gaiety sadly makes children vulnerable to a narcissist’s manipulative advances. The imaginary Hitler offered Jojo a cigarette three times in the first act.
It was well-documented that Hitler despised smoking because of its health risks. So why would he offer one to a susceptible kid?
Hey, no one accused Hitler of being a nice guy!
Now, the first act of Jojo Rabbit is perhaps why it was weighed down by controversy and a dismal box office performance. The image of a young boy and a jubilant Hitler leaping through the air like two kids at Chuck E. Cheese’s was…a bit jarring.
Hey, I’ll be the first to admit that I was taken aback by the unorthodox marketing campaign (I confess!). You’re making a complex Nazi period piece look like a kid’s movie, and expect parents to bring their kids to see it?!
Yeahhhh, just release it to Netflix next time.
Anyway, what we saw in the trailers was just the first act. All the criticism regarding its inappropriate tone towards Nazism isn’t based in fact.
Critics who bashed this movie, with that line of reasoning, clearly didn’t see it past the first 30 minutes.
As the movie goes on, the tone begins to shift to a more dreary, hopeless one as the Fall of Berlin nears.
When Jojo sees his mother’s dead body, hanging from a noose, that’s when his childhood ended. Childhood ends with a gut punch.
When reality kicks in as we come of age, it hurts. A lot. Jojo was given a reality check along with all the citizens of the Fatherland.
Through Jojo’s eyes, we saw the carefree, whimsical time that was pre-1945 Nazi Germany. A time where his countrymen were elated to show the world the overwhelming might of Germany.
Alas, it was not to be. Jojo, along with all of Germany, were mired in a self-destructive and willful state of childhood naiveté.
Then reality came. Like a gut punch (or hail of mortars, what have you).
Thanks for your time, guys.
So, I just thought of something. Maybe I could’ve named this article “Age of the Lost Kids.”
Probably would’ve scanned better. “Kits” is just stupid.
Anyway, auf wiedersehen! 😀