Taika Waititi, USA, 2019
It’s a fine line to walk, making a comedy about Nazi Germany near the end of the war. Such a serious subject… but then again we all know how horrific it was and how hard it must have been so perhaps levity adds another way of looking at history. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.
And this was mostly done well. It was silly and daft, farcical and slapstick. Everyone speaking English but with the best German accent they can muster (it’s a bit ‘Allo, ‘Allo!). I liked the Producers-style Hitler character (played by the New Zealander writer/director). He’s young outcast Jojo’s imaginary friend – a petulant, pouting parody. I liked Sam Rockwell’s slightly camp and very inept Nazi officer too, leader of Jojo’s Hitler Youth group. They are the kind of caricatures that show the adult world through a 10-year-old’s eyes.
Scarlett Johansson’s performance is particularly great, I thought. As a secret member of the resistance, sympathiser to the situation of Jewish people, husband away, daughter dead, and mother of a little Nazi, she puts on her red lippy every day and brings some nuance to what can be bluntly done; there’s not a great deal of subtlety here, nor exploration of meaningful subjects in any depth. Racism is bad. The Nazis were nasty. Living in difficult times is challenging, but maternal love and human kindness conquers all.
So it’s a bit schmaltzy and sentimental, but entertaining and feelgood. It’s not a film that’s going to linger long in the memory, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. In the end – spolier! – the good guys win and our hero realises his heroes were wrong all along.