20 Feb 2020

Adventures in 4K: Jojo Rabbit

From Widescreen, 11:01 am on 20 February 2020

Dan Slevin wonders whether Jojo Rabbit holds up second time around.

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Photo: supplied

Fresh from Taika Waititi’s recent Oscar triumph, the film that won him the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Jojo Rabbit, has made it to home video. Which means – for cinema artists of Taika’s stature – that it is out in the new black case UHD format.

I was really looking forward to this one. Back in October, just as the juggernaut was kicking off, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed a preview cinema screening of the film (even though we both felt that the writer-director’s trademark obsessions might be starting to wear thin).

Imagine my surprise when my wife declined the invitation to watch the film again at home last night. “B-but… we have a better TV now,” I spluttered. She preferred to do her Te Reo homework and I was left in the lounge room in the dark, soaking up a very handsome reproduction indeed. It looks and sounds great and for a lot of viewers it might even be an improvement on the theatrical experience at least technically.

But on my own, and knowing what was coming, I found the film much harder to like. Without an audience the silliness of Taika’s humour doesn’t carry you along in the same way, leaving you stuck in the more maudlin bits.

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Photo: Universal Pictures NZ

To remind you of the plot – unless you are one of those bad New Zealanders who hasn’t yet seen the picture – Jojo Rabbit is 10-year-old Johannes (Roman Griffin Davis), trying to grow up in the final years of World War II. Like most children, he wants to fit in, he wants to be popular and he wants to be good. But when ‘fitting in’ is judged by Nazis, what Johannes has to do doesn’t sit well.

Conflicting advice from the adults around him – his real-life Mum (Scarlett Johansson) and the imaginary best friend and father figure Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) – is really not helping and neither is the imminent destruction of the only society he has ever known by allies from all sides.

Taika Waititi as Adolf Hitler in his new film Jojo Rabbit.

Taika Waititi as Adolf Hitler in his new film Jojo Rabbit. Photo: Screenshot / YouTube

In films like Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the underlying sadness was the ultimate point – and Taika’s balancing act is the reason why those films can stand up to multiple viewings – and the intention is the same here but it doesn’t work nearly as well second time around.

It’s conceivable that watching Truffaut’s The 400 Blows the night before put me in a mood to ask more of Jojo this time around – it’s clear that film was influential on both Boy and Wilderpeople – which often makes for unfair comparisons.

Still, I’m glad I own this. Because I am a stupid collector of physical media but also because I suspect I will want to see this one again in a few years, once Taika has completed what he’s calling his “Mother” series and all the Oscar nonsense has died down.

Jojo Rabbit is available now on DVD ($20), Blu-ray ($25) and UHD ($39). There is one extra on the UHD – a commentary by Taika Waititi which is always good for a laugh so I might save that one for Christmas. It’s rated M for violence and content that may disturb.