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Movie review: Satirical depiction of Nazi Germany, released Friday in area theaters, finds love at its center

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Director Taika Waititi (left) does double-duty as a fictional Adolf Hitler in 'Jojo Rabbit,' released in area theaters on Friday.

'Jojo Rabbit'

4 of 5 stars

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Thomasin McKenzie, Sam Rockwell

Release date: Oct. 18

While it appeared on its surface like an edgy satire, seeking only to garner laughs that occur with a hand over one's own mouth, director Taika Waititi's latest film – "Jojo Rabbit" – turned out to be an emotional, coming-of-age story wrapped in a dark comedy.

The film's 10-year-old protagonist, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), is a passionate member of the Hitler Youth in the late stages of World War II. He is, like many kids, the victim of bullying and is searching for a way to fit in – only the club in this case is a murderous, hyper-nationalist regime.

Jojo's love of country extends to his imaginary friend, a goofy depiction of Adolf Hitler played by Waititi himself. Tiny mustache, short temper and all, Waititi's Hitler serves as the proverbial devil on the shoulder for young Jojo, despite the imaginary dictator's comedic tendencies.

The angel is his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) – a whip-smart, no-nonsense German woman who is always looking to make sense and laughs out of a difficult situation in the country.

She is clearly concerned for Jojo, who is struggling to find an identity and appeared to enter the training program a bit too late – the Allies are about to win the war and the woefully incompetent military grunts charged with training the Hitler Youth aren't exactly the best role models.

The moral complexities and dark realities of growing up in Nazi Germany are often juxtaposed with some of this film's funniest moments.

Despite a haphazard start where the constant stream of jokes can be hit or miss, the movie really takes off when Jojo discovers a teenage Jewish girl hiding in the attic of his home.

Thomasin McKenzie shines in the role of Elsa, who is equal parts clever and vindictive. She and Jojo's relationship is the essence of the film – providing some of its most genuine moments of laughter and the occasional tug on the heartstrings. Viewers will likely find themselves laughing at the dark and absurd one moment, and then smiling behind misty eyes the next.

If Jojo Rabbit weren't so vulgar and occasionally violent, it would be a great family movie. A toned-down version of this story could teach kids a valuable lesson about celebrating differences and rejecting hateful ideologies. Instead, that lesson is offered up to adults during a time in which many of us need it.

It can be depressing to turn on the news in 2019 and see history repeat itself. Children separated from their families and held in camps, entire groups of people being demonized for where they're from or how they pray, innocent people dying in the crossfire of preventable wars.

A movie like "Jojo Rabbit" isn't just some slapstick, mouth-breathing comedy that reminds people that Nazis were bad – it seeks to heal our collective conscience with a heartwarming tale of compassion triumphing over hate.

A glimmer of hope sure to inspire groans, laughter and even dancing, "Jojo Rabbit" is a rinse for the troubled mind and a reminder that this, too, shall pass.

Arts & Leisure briefs

Kick up your heels at the Heritage Center in Mac

Fourth Sundays at the Heritage Center will feature Live Music by Joe Justin and Janet Kay from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center, 11275 S.W. Durham Lane. Billed as "danceable listening music from years gone by," the event is staged by the Yamhill County Historical Society. Cost is $7 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 12 years old and kids under 6 are free. For more information, visit www.YamhillCountyHistory.org.

Halloween spookiness at the museum

McMINNVILLE -- The Yamhill County Historical Society will present "Night at the Museum" from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center, 11275 S.W. Durham Lane. There will be Halloween games, trick-or-treating, a haunted museum and "Old Fashioned Halloween Fun," organizers said. Cost is $5 per carload.There will also be a costume contest, with judging set for 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.yamhillcountyhistory.org.

Library will screen movie 'And They Shall Not Grow Old' on Nov. 8

The Newberg Public Library will present a Veteran's Day showing of the World War I documentary "And They Shall Not Grow Old" at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 in the Black Box Theater at the Chehalem Cultural Center.

The movie shows nearly two hours of restored documentary footage from what was once called "The War to End All Wars."The program will look at the lives of the young men who went to war and the conflict's impact on western culture, according to a press release from the library.

Cheese and wine will be for purchase during the event. Space is limited, to 50 people, so organizers ask that potential attendees make reservations by calling library director Will Worthey at 503-538-7323 (ext. 6) or emailing him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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