Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit reviews mixed, critics unsure of Nazi themes

Taika Waititi's newest film Jojo Rabbit has critics divided over its Nazi themes.

The film, which is billed as an "anti-hate satire", focuses on young German boy Jojo and his imaginary best friend Adolf Hitler, played by Waititi, during the last days of World War II.

Critics have struggled with the Nazi themes and reviews of the film wonder if Waititi managed to pull it off successfully.

"There's a smug surface-level audacity to the Second World War 'anti-hate satire' Jojo Rabbit, a film that employs a repetitive wink as it proudly trots out its central gimmick, recasting Hitler as a buffoonish imaginary friend for maximum lols," wrote Benjamin Lee for the Guardian.

Lee gave the film two stars out of five and wrote he believes the Hitler character gets far too much screen time.

He ended the review by pointing out Waititi's film is a little safe, an opinion shared by Variety's Owen Gleiberman.

"The ultimate intent of the comedy in Jojo Rabbit isn't to make us laugh. It's to get the audience to flatter itself for liking a movie that pretends to be audacious when it's actually quite tidy and safe."

But there were also some reviewers that felt the movie hit the right mark, including Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt.

"Some viewers will undoubtedly see what Waititi is doing here as a kind of smug, misguided Wes Anderson-ization of a subject that has no statute of limitations for satire," she wrote.

"But the New Zealand-born director, who managed to turn 2017's Thor: Ragnarok into one of the most winningly absurd entries in the superhero canon, finds such strange, sweet humor in his storytelling that the movie somehow maintains its ballast, even when the tone inevitably (and it feels, necessarily) shifts."

Greenblatt gave the film an A-.

"It's a bold move to marry a coming-of-age story, which Jojo sets at the end of the Third Reich, to Waititi's signature goofball aesthetic and frenetic self-awareness," Vox's Alissa Wilkinson wrote.

"And the film is more successful in some moments than others. But by the end, it's obvious what Jojo Rabbit is really about: How hate preys on the weak and the young, and how history keeps repeating itself."

She gave the film 4.5 stars.

Jojo Rabbit will be released in the United States on October 14, but it will be out in New Zealand on October 24.