This movie is not safe on any level. Anyone who ventures into the Hitler comedy subgenre is guaranteed a bumpy road. Taika walks in the path of absurdist comedy stalwarts Mel Brooks and Charlie Chaplin at a time when not sticking the landing has zero margin of error. But when you do stick the landing, it is all the more impressive.
It is one thing to challenge the formula in a Marvel “Thor” sequel. It is quite another when you’re painting a sympathetic portrait of kids coming of age while being corrupted by the Third Reich.
As much as this comedically twisted lens distorts one of the least-humorous moments of human history, it also adds an arguably valid perspective to such a reprehensible moment that humanity as a whole would prefer not to think about it at all. In the spirit of Heller’s “Catch-22,” the absurdity is as good of an approach as any to emulate the disorienting horror the sane must feel when living in a society that has gone insane.
I personally love stories with heart, hope, and that make me laugh. I love when filmmakers are not afraid to throw themselves into a triple axel, not knowing if they can land it. I also appreciate when comedians are willing to take on complex topics that can potentially offer insight over dogma and make a thoughtful case against the evils we together face as humans. In this case, it took a Polynesian Jew dressed as Hitler to accomplish these things.
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Jon Favreau is the director of such films as “Iron Man,” “Chef” and “The Jungle Book,” and showrunner of the series “The Mandalorian.”