KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are a wide variety of films nominated this year, everything from masterworks of cinema to overrated films that don’t live up to the hype they have received. Here is a guide to which films to see and which ones to skip.
What it’s about:
Jojo is a 10-year-old boy living in Germany near the end of World War II, who idolizes Hitler so much he has created his own imaginary friend in the image of the Fuhrer. A member of the Hitler youth, Jojo wholeheartedly believes that Jews sleep like bats, have horns hidden under their hair and have the power to read minds. When he discovers his mother, who turns out to be part of the resistance, is hiding a Jewish girl in his home, he is shocked and terrified. He begins interrogating the girl about “Jewish secrets” and ends up developing a crush on her that challenges his world view.
Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo) and Archie Yates (Jojo’s best friend) are delightful and really endearing in their portrayals of two innocents trapped in a world gone mad. Scarlett Johansson creates a stirring emotional portrait of a mother trying to raise her son in a morally bankrupt environment, and her performance provides some of the more affecting moments in the film. As a bratty, mean-girl-esque version of Hitler, Taika Waititi (also the film’s director) is amusingly over-the-top.
Where the film disappoints is in balancing a wildly varying tone that shifts from farce to alarming moments of tragedy. What Waititi is attempting to make is a whimsical, coming-of-age comedy about a boy growing beyond the hatred he has been taught, with Hitler’s Germany and the persecution of the Jews as a backdrop. Not an easy task and one in which he is not entirely successful. The movie is funny, but every time the real-world horrors of his surroundings intrude on Jojo’s fantasies, it feels so out of place that it jars the viewer right out of the film.
Decent chance for Taika Waititi to get a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, but that’s about it.
Taika Waititi did win Best Adapted Screenplay.