Welcome to Marwen - Review

Very little redeems this film. Not Steve Carell, the extremely talented supporting cast, the expertise of director Robert Zemeckis. No, nothing can save Welcome to Marwen, not even your deepest desire to consider it “pretty good”. This is a bad movie, and there’s no shame in that.

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Something is clearly wrong from the get go. Action figure version of Steve Carell careens into a swamp, his plane hit by Nazis on the ground amidst a firestorm of missiles. He crashes, grabs a new pair of shoes, and runs into a group of Nazis who nearly kill him before he is saved by the “women of Marwen”. The energy for this scene is constantly at a ten, and the chain of events is confusing. The decision to open with a spectacular war scene is smart, but makes absolutely no sense for the characters. Why was Mark away from Marwen, a place he never attempts to leave again? The script seems to have been run through one of those robots that watches 10,000 war movies and tries to write an original script based on that knowledge; it’s horrible, and it makes no sense. The film can turn from heartwarming to incredibly violent in a moment, with little explanation as to why the action figures’ deaths are rendered in such detail. It looks cool, and these scenes add a lot of tension to the story, but it’s purely visual. The tension doesn’t last, nor does it lead to any meaningful payoff in the real-life corollary. Mark Hogancamp (Carell) was beaten senseless by a group of Neo-Nazis outside a bar, and had every memory before his attack wiped from his brain, a scene the film makes its emotional center. Had there been some similarity to the violence in Mark’s imagined world and his attack, that would have made sense, but the film misses this opportunity. Welcome to Marwen uses its visually interesting animation when it wants to wake you up or dazzle you, but not when it could be beneficial to the story. There’s one scene where the two stories are mixed, and it’s the best scene in the film, but there is so much more wrong with Welcome to Marwen than the script.

Steve Carell, what are you doing. This is easily the worst performance he’s given in a while, and for an actor who is not frequently thought to have many bad roles, this is a rare bruise spot. The supporting cast is almost completely ignored, and then there’s the inclusion of the Witch. Every character in Marwen is based off a real person in Mark’s life, except for the mysterious Witch of Belgium, voiced by Diane Kruger. She appears sporadically to disintegrate Mark’s loved ones and taunt him, and there is a definite mystery as to why she is there. At the last minute, we’re told that she represents Mark’s addiction, both to his drugs and his hobby. Cool. But rather than give subtle hints to this throughout the film, the revelation is dumped without context. We see Mark using pills throughout the film, but like most things in this movie, the story ignores that until it becomes necessary to make you feel something. It’s lazy, and more than anything feels like a cop-out to an interesting aspect that could have been a powerful moment. There’s a definite lack of tone in Welcome to Marwen, and as it swings wildly between intelligible and completely random, you can’t help but wonder where everything went so wrong.