Courtesy of Universal Pictures
The intention behind Robert Zemeckis’s biographical drama “Welcome To Marwen” is a good one: trying to bring awareness to those who’ve faced traumatic circumstances and find coping mechanisms to help with daily routine. Steve Carell - who can’t seem to decipher what type of film he’s in - is Mark Hogancamp, a photographer with an affinity with his doll collection that provide escapism (after he was beaten within an inch of his life by a group of neo-Nazi thugs, his memory has left him, and his pictures fill that void). And Marwen is the fictional town where Mark’s stories take place.
Zemeckis, who all but pioneered motion capture technology with films like “The Polar Express” and “A Christmas Carol” starring Jim Carrey, brings actors like: Leslie Mann, Eiza Gonzalez, Gwendoline Christie, and Janelle Monae as miniature figurines in the town of Marwen, and Carell’s alter-ego Captain Hoagie leads their brigade. These scenes take place in a Nazi-occupied WWII, Belgium and Zemeckis has crafted a gorgeous looking world, featuring lifelike dolls which capture facial expressions with a wholesome reliability. The interwoven scenes that take place in Marwen far outweigh the human interactions on planet earth.
And so “Welcome to Marwen” looks great, but it’s surprising that Zemeckis - the man who gave us “Forrest Gump” and “Cast Away” - can’t make the story resonate emotionally. Carell’s Mark comes across as hopeless and unengaging - it doesn’t propel his misfortunes forward, it honestly takes step back (including a cringeworthy scene where Mark proposes to his next door neighbor (Mann) that has no merit or justification). On top of sexualizing his dolls throughout Marwen, Mark seems a bit pervy, and instead of wanting to help him, I wanted to alert the authorities.
In addition, the marketing department left out that Mark had a strong obsession with women’s shoes (specifically high heels) and that would explain the motivation behind the thugs jumping him, but it never earns a place on screen. Rather then feel like a true component in his recovery, it only makes Mark that much creepier and awkward (you can tell Universal struggled with how to handle that aspect of Mark’s life). Thus leaving parts of this inspirational story feeling empty, and while credit is due for Carell and the filmmakers trying to tackle these serious issues through animation, the result of “Welcome to Marwen,” however, bares no real impact.