Jojo Rabbit Movie Review

Taika Waititi is a tightrope walker when it comes to the execution of Jojo Rabbit, the kind of picture that few directors might be permitted to make. It helps when you’re coming off Thor: Ragnarok, the best received of that sub franchise in the MCU. This is a tale of atrocities and those involved in it. And it’s handled with a primarily light tone that eventually doesn’t shy away from the horrors of Nazi Germany.

The premise, based on a novel from Christine Leunens, sounds high concept in description. A boy with an imaginary friend that happens to be Adolf Hitler. That sentence could provide a visceral reaction for many and it’s up to Waititi to justify it. He does so in large measure.

The boy is Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a 10-year-old Hitler youth living with his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) in the waning days of World War II. All he really knows is the propaganda of his nation’s leaders and he’s part of the Nazi youth camps. They’re taught by an alcoholic Captain (Sam Rockwell) and a no nonsense Fräulein (Rebel Wilson). Jojo reveres Hitler so much that he acts as his imaginary companion. Waititi pulls double duty as the monstrous Chancellor and plays him as a total nincompoop. Yet like most fictitious companions (even if they’re based on evil real life figures), Jojo’s Hitler serves to reinforce his misguided feelings toward the Jewish people. Also because he’s lonely.

When he discovers that his mom is sheltering young Jewish Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) upstairs, his adolescent worldview is shattered. The witless Hitler doesn’t know what to make of it. Therefore Jojo struggles with how to handle this until his humanity starts to shine through.

To call this movie is a delicate balance is an understatement. There are satirical tones, but there’s a lot more heart. Anyone expecting a Mel Brooks style Producers exercise should look elsewhere. The humor is abundant for the first two acts especially, but always imbued with a level of pathos that comes into sharper focus as it goes on.

Jojo Rabbit is mostly an inventive case study in showing one child learning not to hate. It could fall apart without the casting of Davis. He’s rarely off screen and his performance is fantastic. Not fantastic for a child actor. Fantastic. Not many youngsters could pull off the range of emotions he has to go through and he nails it. McKenzie, in many ways, has an equally challenging role as Elsa navigates teaching Jojo not to fear her. The humanity of her character and the actress playing her convinces us and him. As you might imagine, Waititi has a tricky part as well. He’s got some of the best lines and reactions of all in his campy take. The more recognizable actors are all first-rate. In one of the most powerful scenes not involving Jojo, Johansson has a heart to heart about adulthood with Elsa (on the cusp of entering that status). And speaking of highlights, Jojo’s actual best friend Yorki, played by Archie Yates, is a scene stealer.

So… does this all work? Mostly yes. I also can’t deny that Rabbit never quite reaches the emotional impact that it’s trying to land. The concept doesn’t block that possibility. It’s more that the tonal shifts can be somewhat jarring in a couple of cases. It’s practically unavoidable. I never doubted that Waititi’s heart is in the right place and he’s assembled a superb cast to provide numerous laughs and a lot of warmth. Most importantly, it’s told through a child’s eyes who doesn’t recognize his idols are as false as can be until those eyes are opened.

*** (out of four )

Oscar Watch: Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit is undoubtedly one of Toronto’s most eagerly awaited screenings and it held its unveiling last night. The latest from writer/director Taika Waititi (who hit the big time with 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok), Jojo is a comedy that involves a child with an imaginary friend who happens to be Adolf Hitler. The child is played by newcomer Roman Griffin Davis while the filmmaker himself plays Hitler. Other costars include Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Sam Rockwell, and Scarlett Johansson.

It’s tough to gauge if this odd concoction will work based on the trailer. Early critical reaction is all over the map. Some love it while others seem quite turned off with claims that its unique tone never comes together. The result is shown in the current Rotten Tomatoes rating – 55%.

Most films with that score wouldn’t be in the conversation for a Best Picture nod. This could be an exception as those who like it really like it. I still think it’s probably an on the bubble candidate, but let’s see how it plays out.

The two actors getting the most praise appears to be youngsters Davis and Thomasin McKenzie. Waititi and Johansson were looked at as possibilities for the supporting races. Not so much anymore in my view (Scarlett can take comfort in that she’s appears in for Marriage Story). And Waititi could still land an Adapted Screenplay nod.

Bottom line: Jojo Rabbit looks polarizing enough to keep it away from the big dance, but ardent supporters could change that dynamic. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Hustle Box Office Prediction

A remake of a remake, MGM is hoping moviegoers want to do The Hustle next weekend. The pic updates the Steve Martin/Michael Caine comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which itself was a reworking of the 1964 Marlon Brando/David Niven effort Bedtime Story. Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson are the newest pair of con artists. The supporting cast includes Alex Sharp, Tim Blake Nelson, and Dean Norris. Chris Addison directs.

Hathaway hasn’t headlined a high-profile laugher since 2015’s The Intern, which made $17 million for its start. Wilson, on the other hand, starred in Isn’t It Romantic earlier this year and that debuted at $14.2 million. I like that comp better and I’ll throw in another: 2015’s Hot Pursuit with Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara. It opened in mid May as well with $13.9 million.

That sounds about right here with a so-so low teens take.

The Hustle opening weekend prediction: $13.4 million

For my Pokemon Detective Pikachu prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/30/pokemon-detective-pikachu-box-office-prediction/

For my Poms prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/02/poms-box-office-prediction/

For my Tolkien prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/04/tolkien-box-office-prediction/

Isn’t It Romantic Box Office Prediction

It might be a satire of romantic comedies, but Warner Bros is hoping Isn’t It Romantic brings in a Valentine’s and President’s Day crowd when it opens this Wednesday. Rebel Wilson plays a lovey dovey denier who finds herself in a rom com cinematic universe after being knocked out. Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, and Priyanka Chopra are in the supporting cast. Todd Strauss-Schulson directs.

As mentioned, Romantic will look for a female crowd that hopefully bring their dates. Wilson is no stranger to this holiday frame. Three years ago, she costarred in How to Be Single and it grossed nearly $20 million for its long weekend start (Valentine’s Day fell on Sunday that year).

With Wednesday and Thursday (the 14th) factored in, this will likely make under that figure for the four-day frame and could even struggle to top $20 million for the six-day earnings. I’ll say it manages to just top it.

Isn’t It Romantic opening weekend prediction: $14.3 million (Friday to Monday); $20.7 million (Wednesday to Monday)

For my Happy Death Day 2U prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/02/06/happy-death-day-2u-box-office-prediction/

For my Alita: Battle Angel prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/02/06/alita-battle-angel-box-office-prediction/

Pitch Perfect 3 Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (12/20/17): I am revising my PP3 estimate from $40.6 million for the four-day to $33.6 million.

The Bellas are back for the holidays as Pitch Perfect 3 hits theaters next Friday. Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Alexis Knapp, and Hana Mae Lee are among returnees alongside Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. Newcomers to the series include Ruby Rose and John Lithgow. Trish Sie directs.

The 2012 original was a sleeper hit which grossed $65 million and then became more of a sensation once it became available for home viewing. The summer 2015 sequel shocked all prognosticators with a $69 million opening weekend (topping its predecessor’s entire domestic run) and $184 million overall.

It’s no surprise therefore that Universal Pictures wanted a third helping of accapella comedy. Two and a half years later, Pitch 3 faces competition even in its own musical genre with Hugh Jackman’s The Greatest Showman debuting two days prior. That said, the Bellas appear to have a built-in audience and it could be dangerous to underestimate them.

I still believe Pitch 2 could turn out to be the high water mark in the franchise. A debut in the low to mid 40s would probably put part 3 in the #3 spot behind the second weekend of Star Wars and the first for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Yet with its reported smallish budget of $45 million, that should still be music to the studio’s ears.

Pitch Perfect 3 opening weekend prediction: $33.6 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/11/jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle-box-office-prediction/

For my The Greatest Showman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/the-greatest-showman-box-office-prediction/

For my Downsizing prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/13/downsizing-box-office-prediction/

For my Father Figures prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/14/father-figures-box-office-prediction/

How to Be Single Movie Review

How to Be Single is about four single gals finding their way in the Big Apple and if that sounds like “Sex and the City”, you wouldn’t be wrong. There’s Alice (Dakota Johnson), our central Carrie character. Robin (Rebel Wilson) is the inappropriate Samantha like friend. Lucy (Alison Brie) is the Charlotte-ish hopeless romantic who’s constantly trolling dating sites for true love. And Meg (Leslie Mann) is the career woman (and Alice’s older sister) whose got it together, but realizes she needs a baby. Kind of like Miranda.

Alice is just embarking on her first dip into the single pool when she breaks up with her longtime boyfriend and sees what NYC has to offer. It includes a bartender (Anders Holm) that has the playa life down cold and a sweet widower and dad (Damon Wayans Jr.) still getting over his wife’s death. There’s also the ex-flame (Nicholas Braun) who keeps turning up. Truth be told, none of these relationships are terribly interesting or well-written and Dakota Johnson still seems to be struggling to infuse much personality into her performances. This is also a problem that plagued Fifty Shades of Grey, which was far more dreadful than this.

If anything, How to Be Single is just kind of dull and conventional. It sold itself as a raunch fest, but it’s not. My favorite moments involved Mann and her earnest younger boyfriend (a funny Jake Lacy), yet the script never succeeds in juggling its separate plot lines. More of those characters might have worked. Maybe. The screenwriters might have figured out a way to make them tiresome, too.

** (out of four)

 

The Brothers Grimsby Box Office Prediction

Sacha Baron Cohen is back in his first starring role in nearly four years with action comedy The Brothers Grimsby and the effort looks to be a real test of his drawing power. From Now You See Me director Louis Leterrier and costarring Mark Strong, Penelope Cruz, Rebel Wilson, Ian McShane, Isla Fisher, and Gabourey Sidibe – Grimsby may represent a low mark for Cohen’s headlining output.

He burst onto the film scene in 2006 with Borat to the tune of a $26 million opening and improved those numbers with Bruno‘s $30 million premiere three years. His last vehicle, 2012’s The Dictator, managed $17 million out of the gate. That number would probably be on the higher end of expectations for this, which is managing an OK 50% on Rotten Tomaotes and looks unlikely to be a breakout hit like he’s experienced in years past.

While Grimsby should reach double digits, I believe it may not get much beyond that for a disappointing haul.

The Brothers Grimsby opening weekend prediction: $11.4 million

For my 10 Cloverfield Lane prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/03/03/10-cloverfield-lane-box-office-prediction/

For my The Young Messiah prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/03/03/the-young-messiah-box-office-prediction/

For my The Perfect Match prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/03/03/the-perfect-match-box-office-prediction/