WELCOME TO MARWEN review by Patrick Hendrickson – Steve Carell finds strength in favorite toys

WELCOME TO MARWEN review by Patrick Hendrickson – Steve Carell finds strength in favorite toys

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WELCOME TO MARWEN is a loose depiction of the story of Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell), an artist struggling with recovering from a brutal assault. He is left without any memory of his life before the attack and is also left unable to continue his drawing. He does however find another creative outlet in the form of photography which focuses of the doll inhabitants of a Belgian town called Marwen. These inhabitants are representative of Mark as well as several women in his life. The story picks up very close to the sentencing date of Mark’s assailants and the moving in of a new neighbor named Nicol, who is played by Leslie Mann.

The film shifts from live action to the animated adventures of “Captain Hogie” with Carell voicing the Captain as well. Hogie is accompanied by a squad of female freedom fighters based on the real-life women in Mark’s life. Each of the dolls is voiced by their respective actresses, which is a nice addition but sadly leaves most of these women feeling severely underutilized in the live action scenes.

Gwendoline Christie and Janelle Monae appear in the flesh only one time each, Eiza Gonzalez only appears a handful of times, and the most egregious would be Leslie Zemeckis who is given less than a minute of total screen time. Their doll counterparts are given much more time, but this does little to mitigate this feeling that all of these talented women are being wasted. Leslie Mann feels wasted as well. A token romantic subplot is created with Mark becoming highly infatuated with Nicol. Further detail would lead to spoilers for the film so suffice to say this romance contributes very little to the plot. Nicol also comes across as fairly air-headed at times. Mark wakes her up screaming from a nightmare in the middle of the night and comes to investigate but just waves it off without much of a issue once he gives a relatively unsatisfying response. Carell’s performance is also hit-and-miss but this seems more of an issue with direction than Carell. Robert Zemeckis’ directing in this production leaves something to be desired.

The filmmakers of WELCOME TO MARWEN do not seem to have much faith in the audience. The villain of the story is green-tinted witch called Deja Thoris (played by Diane Kruger) who goes unaccounted for in Hogancamp’s actual life. However, early on in the production Mark receives a refill of his prescription medicine which just so happens to be a batch of giant green pills. The symbolism is obvious from the get-go, but the film still feels the need to drive it home through a few lines of ridiculous dialogue.

The shift from live-action to the dolls is a bizarre one that quite easily could put off the audience. I personally found these segments to be very charming and complimentary to the bleak events portrayed in the live action segments. The tone of this production bounces from one extreme to another in rather inconsistent way. The absurdity of WELCOME TO MARWEN makes it a difficult recommendation, but there is a genuinely heart-wrenching and heartwarming story within this production. At the very least it brings to light a rather fascinating man whose struggles and path to recovery are worth knowing about. The overall earnest attempt earns the film a 3/5.

WELCOME TO MARWEN opens December 21, 2018

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