Ewan Gleadow

Review: Welcome to Marwen

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Copyright: Universal Pictures

I’ve dealt with my fair share of weirdos, but if one of them turned me into a doll to use in a recreation of a battle worn, Nazi occupied Belgium circa 1943, I think I’d be a little flattered. Welcome to Marwen follows the real life, tragic story of Mark Hogancamp, a man inflicted with PTSD after a near-death beating from five men outside of a bar. A touching story, I’m sure, but the Steve Carell led biopic is a disaster to behold, a truly awful experience in every sense. To think on initial release, I would’ve picked this over Beautiful Boy in the Academy Awards nominee race for Carell as Best Actor. Neither were nominated, nor was Carell, and upon finally watching Welcome to Marwen, I can safely say it’s one of the worst films of 2018.

Fortunately though, it’s not due to the performances. Like most films from 2018, especially the big budget pieces, Welcome to Marwen is a competently made piece of film that’s biggest restraint is its director. Zemeckis has fallen from the great heights he once worked at. The glory days of Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump are far behind him as he begins to direct films such as Welcome to Marwen or The Polar Express. Such a nosedive could mean either he’s on a bad streak or that his talent has all but dried up. Unfortunately it feels like the latter, with his direction in Welcome to Marwen an extreme disappointment that does nothing to escape its horrific clichés and complacent biopic formula.

Carell does his best with what limited information it seems he has to work with. For some unexplained reason he always has a cigarette in his mouth but only when outside and working on his photographs. I’m presuming this is so that they could hammer away that all creative minds smoke. Well, they don’t, some of us drink irresponsibly instead. But Carell plays his role well enough, albeit to the detriment of an awful script. His dialogue and chemistry with other actors don’t appear to be as on point as it usually is. Feeling more and more like an island, which I presume is the point, Carell’s portrayal of Hogancamp is diluted with atypical romance subplots and the occasional fantasy blend with the models he photographs.

With that in mind, it’s safe to say that these fantasy elements and the brief interludes between scenes from reality are the worst parts of the film. The animation style is the most uncomfortable experience of all, with the character models looking like they’ve been created out of stripped Toy Story 2 assets. That strange polish the older Pixar animation had to them was never a compliment to the piece of work, so why Welcome to Marwen attempts to copy this is beyond me.

Full of the ridiculous Hollywood drivel of how to overcome mental health issues, Welcome to Marwen is a perfectly fine story, performed with the same finesse that comes from using a sledgehammer to paint. It doesn’t work, it doesn’t elicit anything interesting and, worst of all, it ruins something that had even a minute amount of inspiration to it.