I am not going to devote a lot of energy to this review because WELCOME TO MARWEN is truly one of the worst films I've ever seen. It's astonishing that Robert Zemeckis, who has a laundry list of wonderful films he's directed, including Oscar winner FORREST GUMP, was behind this fiasco.
This is based on the true story of Mark Hogencamp (Steve Carell), who was beaten within an inch of his life one night after drinking too much in a local bar --- all because he relished wearing women's high heels. Because of this severe trauma to his head --- and the rest of his body --- Mark has no memory of anything before the attack.
He was an illustrator in his previous life, but now cannot draw. So Mark has turned to photography and he has created a fictional small town in Belgium during WWII named Marwen.
He collects dolls and stages them in the town of Marwen, which he constructed behind his home. He stages scenes and photographs them, but for Mark, these dolls come to life. His new neighbor, Nicol (Leslie Mann) becomes the favorite doll in his collection --- a bevy of beautiful women who populate Mark's real life.
WELCOME TO MARWEN is a total waste of everyone's time --- including all of the gorgeous women who star alongside Carell. I have never been more infuriated watching a film. Mark's real-life friends, women of all shapes and sizes, become lusty, busty broads in his fantasy. And if that isn't bad enough --- and it's totally
disgusting --- they all tote machine guns and do not hesitate to annihilate the Nazis in Mark's imaginary world. Not that I think Nazis don't deserve to be wiped off the face of this Earth, but the overt violence of these dolls is appalling --- talk about overkill.
There is nothing redeeming about WELCOME TO MARWEN. The screenplay by Zemeckis and Caroline Thompson is extremely dull, other than when Nazis or their enemies, including Captain
Hogie --- also Carell --- are getting pummeled by machine gun fire.
Beware, be warned, WELCOME TO MARWEN --- animated, creepy dolls, et al --- is an AWFUL movie. Do not waste your time/money. If we were not committed to giving a fellow film critic a ride home, I would have walked out --- which would have been a first for me.
Opinion: HUGE Don't Bother!
I suspect that Robert Zemeckis' new film WELCOME TO MARWEN will be one of the most polarizing movies of this, or any other year, in cinema. Perhaps fans of violent video games that feature the use of excessive force and over-the-top mayhem will have no reservations at all.
If you've already read Jeanne's not-so-subtle review, there is no doubt where she stands on this film. On the other hand, I appreciate the originality that went into this effort and the fact it is based on a true story also resonated with me. Here is a tale about an ex-Navy man, Mark Hogencamp, aka Captain Hogie (Steve Carell), who was beaten nearly to death by five drunken individuals who took a disliking to the fact that he occasionally liked to wear women's shoes.
Early on in the story we learn that Hogencamp, a veritable recluse living in a small upstate New York town, is scheduled to face his attackers, one of whom sports Nazi tattoos, at their sentencing hearing. His first attempt at this results in him fleeing the courtroom as his PTSD from the attack takes over. Will he make a second appearance and make a statement which could influence the judge in her sentencing decision?
Until that critical juncture, Mark, who lost all memories of his previous life in the beating, uses his photographic skills to create the fictional Belgian town of Marwen, complete with life-like 12" dolls, primarily fierce female fighters, built to a 1:6 scale. Zemeckis and his team use motion-capture technology to bring Mark's photographs to life to a viewing audience.
WELCOME TO MARWEN effectively juxtaposes Mark's post-attack life and the fantasy world he has created as part of his self-imposed therapy. The special effects and human reactions attributed to the dolls are remarkable. I also found the real world of humans, populated by actors Leslie Mann, Janelle Monáe and many others, to be of equal interest and intensity.
Carell is really on a roll, this movie being his third of the year (along with VICE and BEAUTIFUL BOY), and another dramatic role. He does a really credible job capturing Hogencamp's comfort in the safety of his small town cocoon. He also effectively exhibits Mark's terror when flashes of his savage beating recur, abetted by the evil doll known as Deja Thoris (Diane Kruger).
Mann plays Mark's new neighbor, Nicol, a welcome -- and quite beautiful --- change to his outlook on life when she moves in across the street from his humble home. But, in another subplot, does she share his romantic fantasies? Another cast standout is Merritt Wever as Roberta. She runs the hobby shop where Mark gets many of his dolls and art supplies and she has a definite romantic interest in him.
But more importantly, she is the voice of calm and reason in his complex world.
I promise that a viewing of WELCOME TO MARWEN will be quite unlike anything else you may have experienced at the movies. What I can't promise is that you will not walk out of the theatre.
And finally, there is this quote from Mark Hogencamp himself:
"I’m building an army of women. Women rule the world.
We’re just here to keep them company.”
Opinion: Wait for DVD