With the Precocious Jojo Rabbit, Waititi Proves his Chops Once Again

Film Review By Hamilton Richardson

I recently went and checked out the new and potentially controversial Taika Waititi film, Jojo Rabbit.

Before I jump into my thoughts and reactions to the movie, I need to explain myself a bit, mostly because this review will find itself before a new audience.

Over the last several years, I have gotten the great opportunity to review a lot of movies. Many of those reviews were written for two print publications and some were for publication on the web. Now to be clear, I haven’t reviewed as many films as some prominent critics and I would never claim that I have. But I’ve reviewed a good many and for the most part, I’ve loved every minute.

With so many critics out there, why would I even attempt to join the ranks of those who share their thoughts and opinions on the latest films? Simple. I love movies. And its not just that. I love great movies. Movies that stir the heart. Movies that make you feel courageous, hopeful and that point you to something bigger than yourself.

But the only way to find those rare films is to, obviously, watch them and to try to sift through the rubble to find the gems.

Jojo Rabbit is just such a gem.

The new Taika Waititi film is the latest creative endeavor from the director of Thor: Ragnarök (2017). Waititi is also well known for co-directing the strange but hilarious cult classic, What We Do in the Shadows (2014).

Jojo Rabbit is a period piece set in WW II Germany, which is part drama, part parody and in an unexpected way, part tragedy. The mix of those three genres is what makes this movie so remarkable. One moment you’re laughing out loud, the next you’re brought to tears.

Jojo, whose full name is Johannes Beltzer, is a smart, thoughtful young boy who dreams of becoming a Nazi. He even talks everyday to his own personal Hitler, played to hilarious perfection by Waititi, and asking for advice about how to succeed in Hitler’s Youth. Jojo is played so well by young actor Roman Griffin Davis, who after this could have a bright future in films.

Jojo’s mom, Rosie, played by Scarlett Johansen, is a funny, tough and devoted mother. As the film unfolds, we learn that Rosie, although appearing to support her son’s love of the Fuhrer, actually has other plans in the works. Johansen may have given the best performance of her career here.

So what does a young precocious Nazi boy do when he discovers a Jewish young lady (Elsa played by Thomasin McKenzie) living in the walls of his house? Well now you see the unfolding crisis in this well-told, superbly performed motion picture.

Although a very serious topic is on display in Jojo Rabbit, it is interspersed with kooky comedy and parody beyond compare (I mean who doesn’t want to see Adolf Hitler running around the forest with a boy screaming the benefits of being a Nazi?). And let me not neglect to mention the hilarious Sam Rockwell who plays Captain Klenzendorf, the one-eyed (and recently demoted) Nazi officer tasked to train Jojo and a group of German youth to be good soldiers. We find out early on with Klenzendorf that he has just about had enough of the war and is killing time until it’s over.

I must interject in the midst of all this hilariousness, that there are some painful, truly tragic and even shocking parts of Jojo Rabbit. It’s a war movie after all and the devastating truth of what the Nazis did to the Jewish population is not lost on Waititi. And he’s not afraid to show it, which also makes the film so moving.

Now I can already hear the complaints and moans from those who see this film as a travesty. I can hear it now. How can you make Nazis look funny? How can you laugh while people are being killed? How could you fall in love with a young boy who just wants to be a good Nazi?

That’s the beauty of this project. You’re able to laugh in the face of death, yet never forget that death is terrible. Never forget that Nazis were evil. Never forget that boys can get awfully confused about life.

But in this rare gem of a film, we are forced to choose– in the midst of war and abuse and injustice—to take a few minutes to laugh.

A Humbling Photo

By Voddie Baucham

A friend of mine at Desiring God Ministries sent me a photo the other day that brought tears to my eyes. They were inside a maximum security prison shooting a documentary when a photographer came across what he thought was an interesting shot. It was an inmate’s desk with a copy of the Bible and two other books. Those two books were, The Ever Loving Truth, and Family Driven Faith. I had preached in this particular prison before and sent several books in when I left. This inmate was obviously one of the beneficiaries of that gift.

I am always torn when I sit down to write. Whether it is a book, an article, or a simple blog post, I struggle with several emotions. On the one hand, I feel compelled to write. On the other hand, I find writing to be a terrible taskmaster, and I really can’t say that I ‘love’ to do it. Then there are the days when I ask myself, “Are you so arrogant as to believe that you have something to say that is worth putting in print?” The answer to that question is always a resounding NO! (Yes, I talk to myself and answer) However, I write nonetheless. And as I write, there are a few groups of people I keep in mind.

I WRITE FOR MY GRANDCHILDREN

One group of people that motivates me to write is my children’s children who are yet to be born. When I sit down to write a book like The Ever Loving Truth, Family Driven Faith, or What He Must Be, I often remind myself that what I am doing will serve as a historical marker of sorts for my descendants… many of whom I may never meet. I want my great grandchildren to be able to glimpse into my life and discover something about what the Lord did to pave the way for them. Perhaps a wayward member of my family will be brought back into the fold a hundred years from now when he reads words penned by his long-dead ancestor.

“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” (Psalms 78:1-4 ESV)

I WRITE FOR MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE LORD

Not only do I think about my descendants when I write, I also think about my brothers and sisters in the Lord who are wrestling with some of the very issues about which the Lord has led me to write. I know my books are not for everyone. In fact, they are probably not for most people. However, I am equally sure that they are definitely for someone, though I know not whom. I guess that’s why this photo meant so much to me. It was a glimpse into the world of one man whose life has been touched by a labor to which my life has been devoted. That is an exhilarating, satisfying, and terrifying thought. That’s the kind of thought that makes me ask myself, “Are you so arrogant as to believe that you have something to say that is worth putting in print?” And of course, the answer is still, “NO!”

Finally, I write for those whom the Lord is drawing to himself. One of my prayers for each of my books is that God will use the words therein as a link in the redemptive chain. I am thoroughly convinced of the Lord’s sovereign, monergistic work in salvation. However, I am equally convinced that he ordains the ends as well as the means. I believe God uses the gospel to call sinners to himself. As such, I pray he uses my writing as a means through which he saves some. Thus, I continue to write. And amazingly, people continue to read… even people behind bars. God is good!

VB

Why I am A Baptist

By Samuel Sey

I’ve been baptized twice. I was baptized for the first time two years before I became a Christian. And I was baptized for the second time six years after I became a Christian. But what happened in between that time is why I am a Baptist.

I was baptized for the first time when I was seventeen. I was playing basketball at my Pentecostal church’s gym with my friends when a youth leader at the church walked into the gym and asked us to get baptized. So that Saturday afternoon, I joined a long line of unrepentant and unbelieving teenagers who got baptized into a false conversion.

At the time, I didn’t understand that baptism was a public declaration of repentance and belief in Jesus Christ. I didn’t know that when people get baptized, it’s a sign that they are dead to sin and made alive in Christ. So immediately after my baptism, I returned to the gym to play basketball, and I didn’t think or care about the gospel until two years later, when I was nineteen.

A week or two after I became a Christian, the church organized a meeting for all the youth members who had recently professed faith in Christ, and they asked us to pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They explained that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was distinct from the Holy Spirit’s work in making sinners born-again to a new life in Christ. They claimed that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a powerful experience and spiritual blessing received only by Christians who actively pursue it, a blessing that produces, in their mind, the gift of tongues.

That, of course, isn’t true. That is completely inconsistent with what the Bible teaches about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Bible describes the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians when they are born-again. It’s simultaneous to salvation. Every person adopted by God, every person justified by Christ, and every person regenerated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit is already baptized with the Holy Spirit.

But I didn’t know that at the time. I prayed for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at the meeting. Then they told me to start speaking whatever sounds or words that came out of my mouth. They claimed that the sounds or words that came out of my mouth were the gift of tongues, the evidence that I had been baptized with the Holy Spirit.

I was trained to pursue a baptism I already had, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and I was trained to ignore a baptism I didn’t have, believer’s baptism.

Eventually, I became Reformed through Paul Washer and John MacArthur, and I discovered that my local church’s charismatic and prosperity gospel teachings were harming my soul. So I left the church and attended a Dutch Reformed Church for three years.

At the Dutch Reformed Church, I was forced to confront my positions on ecclesiology and especially, baptism, for the first time. Because of my Pentecostal upbringing, I generally believed in congregationalism and believer’s baptism. My Dutch reformed reverend gave me several books to read to challenge my position on baptism, but the books’ arguments were unconvincing. Especially as I weighed them against clear indications in the Bible that baptism is always preceded by faith and repentance in Christ.

The apostle Peter’s description of baptism in 1 Peter 3:21, where he says: “[baptism] is an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” and other words like that in the Bible makes it difficult for me to accept infant baptism.

The more I studied what the prophets, apostles, church fathers, and modern theologians said about the covenant and baptism, the more I became convinced and convicted about believer’s baptism—especially since I hadn’t yet been baptized as a believer.

So I left the Dutch Reformed Church and joined Grace Fellowship Church, where I officially became a member at a Baptist church—after the elders baptized me.

THE DANGER OF PASSIVE MASCULINITY

By Allie Beth Stuckey

It’s trendy these days to blame our problems on men– mass shootings, sexual assault, war. All of these, feminists say, can be traced back to what they call “toxic masculinity” – the infectious disease of maleness that we’ve let pervade society for far too long. Since, they purport, men are the common denominator in so many of the tragedies our country endures, they must be the root of our unrest.

In an effort to snuff out this male toxicity, Hollywood — our bastion of reason and morality — suggests that we emasculate men. Surely that will do the trick! After all, how many mass shooters, sexual harassers and rapists do you know who are eunuchs? Exactly. This explains why chauvinist-turned-Ghandi Jimmy Kimmel joked at the Oscars that “Oscar is the perfect man” because he has “no penis at all.” As the old saying goes, ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, castrate ‘em.’

Tongue-in-cheek or not, the underlying message from the entertainment industry is clear: maleness is the core of our trouble. If we had less of it, the world would be a better place. Take a look at a few of these recent headlines:

Alright. We get it: men are bad. And, apparently, if men were just less masculine– weaker, more feminine, gentler – we wouldn’t have so many issues. And, really, except for being contradicted by every piece of factual data in existence, the theory is flawless.

What these man-hating, virtue-signaling, third-wave feminist whitewashed tombs don’t realize is: it’s not masculinity that’s the problem, it’s a lack of masculinity. It’s not male strength that’s the base of our issues, it’s male weakness.

Confident, self-assured men – the kind our society needs – don’t rape women. They don’t harass their female employees. Brave men don’t bully their peers. Strong men don’t shoot up schools. They don’t patronize or hurt others to prove their masculinity.

Weak, insecure ones do.

That’s why 26 out of the last 27 deadliest mass shooters were fatherless. That’s why boys who grow up in single-mother homes are twice as likely to commit crimes than those who grow up with a present dad. That’s why both sons and daughters are more likely to become depressed without a strong relationship with their father. That’s why 71% of high school dropouts are fatherless.

Not because they had too much male strength in their lives, but because they didn’t have enough.

If masculinity were truly toxic, then wouldn’t boys and girls who grow up without dads be happier and healthier? If it were better that men were more like women, wouldn’t kids be just as content with a mom than with having a father, too?

Like it or not, masculinity — in its best, strongest form — is the kingpin of the family. Humble, strong leadership as expressed by a father is simply not, in most cases, adequately replaced by a mother. Those without a strong father tend to act out in aggression in their adolescent and adult years– not because they’re oversaturated with maleness, but because they’re starving for it. 

The void caused by fatherlessness, along with its consequential damage, should be a pretty good indication that it’s not less or weaker men that we need, but more strong ones. If the family deteriorates because of a lack of a strong male figure, doesn’t it follow that society, too, falls apart without strong, honorable men?

If we know that kids who grow up without dads are more likely to be a threat to themselves and to others, shouldn’t we be trying to save masculinity, rather than kill it?

Unfortunately, as logical as it may seem, that line of thinking is seen as radical to the Left, who are working hard towards their dystopian future, where humanity is nothing more than an amorphous, genderless blob of nihilistic relativism. The idea of “traditional family values” doesn’t exactly fit into their plans.

The simple truth is: we need good men. We need strong dads. We need loyal brothers and friends. We need them to be protective. We need them to work hard. We need them to care. We need them to be present. We need them to stand up for us. We need them to hold it together. We need all of the things that feminists swear we don’t. We need honest, self-sacrificing, servant-leader, and — yes — Christlike men. We need them, and we women need to raise, encourage and affirm them into existence. (I made a quite controversial video about this once.)

I don’t mean that women can’t be these things, too; I believe in the power and purpose of strong women. Anyone who knows me knows how outspoken and career-minded I am, and that I don’t take well to being patronized. The necessity of masculinity has nothing to do with diminishing the strength of women— it has to do with complementing and bolstering it.

Masculine strength comes in many forms, and in its truest, it loves, protects, serves, works, builds and fortifies in a way that only it can.

Let’s encourage that masculinity rather than shaming it into nonexistence. Our future as a society literally depends on it.