Most viewers will agree that Nazis aren't funny, but Waititi's comic voice is so ridiculously lovable that, against all odds, this singular movie somehow is -- at least fitfully. At other moments, Jojo Rabbit whipsaws so quickly between light satire and the heaviest tragedy that the uneven tone is bewildering. But before you get there, there's a long, sweet stretch in which viewers get to know the hapless Jojo, who's sympathetically played by the excellent Davis. It's easy to see why a fatherless, lonely, picked-on kid is delighted to put on a uniform and be part of a club that's all the rage among the boys in his town. And it's equally easy to understand why his imaginary friend takes the form of the almighty (to Jojo) Hitler. Even better, Jojo's imagined Hitler doesn't rant and bluster like the real man; instead, he shores up Jojo's confidence with assurances that he's good enough, smart enough, and, gosh darn it, people like him. Except, in real life, mostly they don't, and Jojo is left alone at home to make a dangerous discovery.
At that point, the movie basically splits into two parts: At home, Jojo's stern prejudices around the Fatherland's sworn nemeses begin to splinter as he gets to know one particular hated enemy. Everywhere else, he keeps up the front of a loyal Hitler Youth corps member. There's plenty of comic gold in the latter: Sam Rockwell's profane Captain Klenzendorf has a Captain Jack Sparrow vibe that's a kick, Rebel Wilson is reliably hilarious as a fervently pious woman in uniform, and viewers quickly learn to sit up and pay attention anytime Jojo's pricelessly endearing sole friend, Yorki (Archie Yates), appears on-screen. But then a devastating event brings all the funny to a screeching halt, and we're left with Jojo, picking up the pieces at the end and wondering, despite the relatively cheerful closing scene, what on Earth did we just watch? Perhaps this, too, was part of Waititi's grand plan, to loosen viewers up with humor before delivering a walloping gut punch of seriousness. But if it sends viewers out of the theater with wrinkled-up "Huh?" faces, it will hardly be a surprise. At moments, this movie is good, even great. But it's hard to know what Waititi was going for, or even how to feel about what you've just seen. Jojo Rabbit is a good time, until it isn't.