Stars: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell
Taika Waititi’s follow up to the larky ‘Thor Ragnarok’ is a bold-ish but flawed comedy, adapted from the novel ‘Caging Skies’ by Christine Leunens, and charts the experiences of a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany in the closing stages of WW2. Jojo Betzler (Davis) is a socially awkward ten-year-old boy who lives with his saint-like mum Rosie (Johansson). His father is away at war, so male guidance is provided by Jojo’s invisible friend, a petulant and pouting anachronistic slang-spouting (‘that was intense’) version of Hitler (Waititi taking the lion’s share of the laughs). Shortly after Jojo is kicked out of the Nazi Youth for accidentally setting off a grenade, he discovers that his mum has been hiding a young Jewish girl Elsa (McKenzie) in the closet. Initially Jojo, thanks to his indoctrination, is frightened and repelled, before, inevitably a friendship ensues. Waititi’s visual brio is very much in evidence in the dazzling colourful split-screen title sequence set to the German version of ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, which feels like Leni Riefenstahl channelling Beatlemania. It’s the most audacious, energetic sequence in the picture, and while there are some laughs to be had in the subsequent depiction of the bleak comic absurdities of Third Reich life it never really recaptures the comic energy of the opening, and by midway the satire has given way to mawkishness.