It has already been a bit of a banner year for beloved writer/director/’s Korg actor Taika Waititi, with the TV adaptation of his popular cult film, , and his roles in and the forthcoming Disney+ series, Now, we are getting our first good look at , Waititi’s forthcoming dark comedy/drama based on the novel, , by Christine Leunens.
Per the film’s official synopsis, is “a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy (Roman Griffin Davis as JoJo) whose world view is turned upside-down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.” The cast also includes Sam Rockwell as a Nazi captain at a Hitler Youth camp, Alfie Allen as his second-in-command, Rebel Wilson as a brutish camp instructor, and Stephen Merchant as a Gestapo agent.
The first official teaser dropped in July, opening with some good old-fashioned slapstick at this Hitler Youth camp to give us a taste of the overall tone of the film. Jojo is tormented by the other kids at camp for being a bit of a wuss—hence his nickname, “Rabbit.” His imaginary BFF, Adolf, assures him people used to say nasty things about him all the time, too: “Oh, he’s a lunatic. Oh, look at that psycho, he’s going to get us all killed!” (Waititi has said that Adolf is essentially a substitute for the boy’s absent father.)
This latest trailer fleshes out the basic premise, showing us Jojo at camp, enthusiastically trying to emulate his hero, Adolf Hitler, as the children practice “war games,” gas mask drills, basic combat, and of course, blowing things up. Jojo deals with his natural shyness and anxiety with the help of his imaginary-friend version of Adolf. Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf recalls that he once had an imaginary friend: “He got me in quite a bit of trouble.” And we can safely assume the same will be true for Jojo, especially when he discovers that his own mother, Rosie, has been harboring a pretty Jewish refugee named Elsa. Naturally, the Gestapo comes calling, although Merchant’s Captain Deertz is favorably impressed with all the Nazi paraphernalia in Jojo’s bedroom: “I wish more of our young boys had your blind fanaticism.”
Elsa is the first Jewish person Jojo has ever met, and their budding friendship forces him to confront all the lies he has been taught via camp gossip and Nazi propaganda (like, “Jews can read each other’s minds”). Naturally, Imaginary Adolf isn’t happy about this. “I’m the enemy,” Jojo tells Elsa. She replies with piercing insight: “You’re not a Nazi, Jojo, you’re a 10-year-old kid who likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club.” And given the outcome of World War II, we’re likely to see the last gasps of the Nazi regime, with all that portends for our young protagonist. The last shot of this trailer is Jojo confessing to one of his camp buddies that nothing makes sense anymore. “Yeah, it’s definitely not a good time to be a Nazi,” the kid replies.
will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2019, and the film will also screen later this month at Fantastic Fest. It hits theaters on October 18, 2019. (And, yes, due to Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox, can officially be in the running for most unexpected “Disney” film release.)