April 8, 2019  (Web Review)

Welcome to Marwen

Universal, 116 min., PG-13, DVD: $29.98, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $34.98, Apr. 9

Reviewer rating: 1.5/4

Visionary filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, The Polar Express) turns his attention to the fantasyland created by an eccentric artist with PTSD. In his backyard in upstate Kingston, NY, Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) has meticulously constructed a scaled WWII Belgian village named Marwen, where plastic American G.I. Capt. Hogie (Hogancamp’s alter-ego) battles Nazis with the help of a heroic squadron of leggy, gun-toting, Barbie doll-like women. Once a gifted illustrator, Mark is now unable to draw. He suffers from extensive brain injuries, including amnesia, caused by a brutal hate attack. And the sentencing hearing for his assailants is rapidly approaching, along with a gallery opening of his photographic work. The inspiration for Mark’s figurines include Anna (Gwendoline Christie), his nurse/caregiver; Julie (Janelle Monáe), his physical therapist; Carlala (Elza González), who cooks at the local diner; Roberta (Merritt Wever), who works in the hobby shop; and Suzette (Leslie Zemeckis), his favorite porn actress. A new doll is added when syrupy sweet Nicol (Leslie Mann) moves in across the street. Mark’s anti-depressant addiction is personified by the evil blue-haired witch Deja (Diane Kruger). Clumsily scripted by Zemeckis and Caroline Thompson, Welcome to Marwen depicts Mark’s skewed perception of the world, superficially skimming over his preference for cross-dressing and fetish for women’s stilettos, which prompted the vicious attack on him. The real Mark Hogancamp’s highly imaginative healing-through-art project was chronicled in Jeff Malmberg’s insightful 2010 documentary Marwencol (VL-3/11), but this fictionalized version is just creepy, and too full of campy artifice to be effective. Not recommended. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes (12 min.), and the behind-the-scenes featurettes “A Visionary Director” on filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (5 min.), “Living Dolls” (4 min.), “Building Marwen” (4 min.), and “Marwen’s Citizens” (4 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are bonus DVD and digital copies of the film. Bottom line: a fine extras package for a disappointing film.] (S. Granger)