Marwen is Dead on Arrival

Zemeckis fails in deciding what type of film to make.

It’s completely apropos that Welcome to Marwen comes out during the holiday. It’s much like a fruitcake. You have fruit, which is good; cake, which is great; put them together, abhorrent mess.

At what point will it take for director Robert Zemeckis to realize that working in animation is the least of his prodigious gifts? Welcome to the biggest bust of 2018.

Not even adapted, “inspired by” the 2010 documentary, Welcome to Marwen follows Mark Hogancamp, who, as a victim of a hate crime, loses most of his memory. As “Cap’n Hoagie,” he builds a miniature WWII-style village to help cope with his losses.

This film is pure Oscar bait, or at least had the makings of Oscar bait, maybe even a decent film. It just seems that Zemeckis was just as interested in playing with dolls as was Hogancamp. Playing with dolls is fine. However, with so many themes and human conditions to explore, this was all such a waste. There was no reason for the director to get lost in cuteness and metaphor. This film could’ve been a strong drama about PTSD, and hate crimes, and kink shaming, and recovery. Instead, the strongest and most passionate scenes involve the dolls.

Zemeckis has been doing this too long to get lost on the shiny toy. Hogancamp literally creates his own world to control himself and his surroundings. There is a sense of fun in the miniature world where there shouldn’t be, leaving the film disjointed and everyone confused. If we’re going to make this film an allegory for opioids, cool, then let’s see that done properly. The shoddy editing and late payoff don’t pay dividends or make any sound logical leaps.

Steve Carell is not the actor of a generation. He is, however, the best to transcend comedy into drama. It would be refreshing to see him take films that fit him and his style instead of the other way around. There wasn’t a film in the past five years that wasn’t geared towards Academy fare or box office success. I see more of the actor working more for the brand than the art.


JP Spence

JP Spence is a writer, screenwriter, and improviser living in Los Angeles. He previously served as the media critic for the Topanga Messenger and as Editor-In-Chief for the LA Valley Star. You can find Josh @JP_Spence on twitter or at any press screening.

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