‘Jojo Rabbit’ reviews: Taika Waititi’s ‘audacious’ Nazi comedy is a big risk, but does it pay off?

To call “Jojo Rabbit” a big swing may be an understatement. Taika Waititi‘s film bills itself as an “anti-hate satire,” but it’s still, to put it mildly, a creative risk to make a comedy about Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. Nevertheless, it went over well with moviegoers at the Toronto Film Festival, where it won the People’s Choice Award. But what about critics? The film opened on October 18, so reviewers are having their say, and boy do they have a lot to say.

As of this writing the reactions are sharply divided. On MetaCritic the film has a score of 53 based on 32 reviews counted thus far: 15 positive, 12 mixed, 5 negative. But it’s a different story over on Rotten Tomatoes, the pass/fail aggregator where the film is rated 80% fresh based on 134 reviews: 107 positive and only 27 negative. The RT critics’ consensus says, “‘Jojo Rabbit’s’ blend of irreverent humor and serious ideas definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste — but either way, this anti-hate satire is audacious to a fault.”

So why such a big difference between the two ratings? Well, MC measures degrees of like and dislike, while RT boils everything down to a simple thumbs up or thumbs down. So while quite a lot of critics are ambivalent, it seems that most of those critics lean slightly closer to affection than they do to derision.

But when so many reviews are on the fence, whether they lean positive or negative can be in the eye of the beholder. Consider Owen Gleiberman (Variety) and A.O. Scott (New York Times). MC scores both of their reviews as 60 out of 100, marking them as mixed. But RT labels Scott’s review as positive and Gleiberman’s as negative.

Long story short, critics are feeling all the feelings about “Jojo Rabbit”: love and hate and everything in-between. It’s “fervently needed” or “careless.” It’s “strange and sweet,” or its “comedy curdles.” It may be up there with “Joker” as one of the most divisive films of the year. But as we saw last year with “Green Book,” which also won the People’s Choice Award in Toronto, you can still win Oscars even if you divide the critics.

Check out some of the “Jojo Rabbit” reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow movie fans in our forums.

Joelle Monique (Paste): “Waititi infuses a level of humanity into WWII without blindly forgiving those responsible, nor hiding behind the guise of good guys in bad situations … Combined with larger-than-life characters, splintering tragedy, and a unique coming-of-age journey ‘Jojo Rabbit’ conveys a a message about love’s ability to conquer loneliness, and that’s a message that’s fervently needed.”

Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly): “Taika Watiti takes a big, wild swing with ‘Jojo Rabbit’ — an audacious piece of Third Reich whimsy that almost definitely shouldn’t work as well as it does, considering it’s about a boy whose imaginary best friend is Hitler … the New Zealand-born director … finds such strange, sweet humor in his storytelling that the movie somehow maintains its ballast.”

Tasha Robinson (The Verge): “In the early going, though, Waititi manages to keep the tone light and the humor surreal enough to avoid too much association with the real world. But as his story devolves into melodrama, the comedy curdles … ‘Jojo Rabbit’ founders when it stops being weird and daring, and tries to be sweet and serious instead.”

Jane Crowther (Total Film): “Though it dabbles with the horror of the Third Reich it never examines their worst atrocities (genocide is addressed in a throwaway jibe). And that perhaps, is too careless in today’s world of a rising far right and stealth dictatorships. But if you’re looking for giddy escapism … then you’ll have as much fun as the cast clearly had making this.”

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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