Creepy. That’s the best word to describe Robert Zemeckis’ new movie, “Welcome To Marwen.”
Steve Carrell stars as Mark Hogancamp, a man struggling with PTSD after being severely beaten in a hate crime by a bunch of idiots who overheard him say that he likes women’s shoes. Unable to remember his own life, Mark imagines one, made up of dolls he photographs in a fictional village in Belgium during World War II. We also see his mind running wild in hallucinations where he casts himself as the fighter pilot hero in stories where he’s constantly taking on Nazis while being protected and often rescued by women inspired by those in his real life.
Because Mark is a fan of porn, the costumes he makes for his female dolls are right out of Slutty Stereotype Central, with each having their own custom-made pair of shoes with stiletto heels. Oddly, the actual women aren’t offended by the get-ups of their doll doppelgangers, whose shirts often pop open to reveal their breasts. When a new redheaded neighbor, Nicole (Leslie Mann), moves in across the street, Mark becomes infatuated and makes her part of his weird fantasy/reality tales — none of which freak her out, either. Someone should have drawn a line and told him what was inappropriate, but everybody just went along because they knew about Mark’s mental issues. It all left a bad taste in my mouth.
There’s also an underwritten character of Kurt, Nicole’s ex-boyfriend, who appears a couple of times and frightens Mark, but then is never seen again as the plot takes off in other directions. It all builds to Mark having to go to court to give a victim impact statement before his attackers can be sentenced by a judge. Can he find the courage to stand up to them?
I couldn’t have cared less. In fact, while it may have served as some sort of therapy for the traumatized Hogancamp, the whole “Welcome To Marwen” enterprise turned me off.
Sure, Zemeckis is a wizard with special effects — as he proved in “Back To The Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Forrest Gump,” and other movies — and he does it again with the realistic plastic sheen he adds to the performance-capture animation of the actors-as-dolls. But that’s not enough to make the movie work. Even if it’s based on a true story, the plot is ridiculous and I had no empathy for Mark or any of the other characters.
It’s a big swing and a big miss. I give Carrell credit for taking on challenging projects like this and “Beautiful Boy” and “Vice” all in the same year, but unless the latter impresses me at a screening tonight, he’ll have gone 0-for-3 in my book for 2018. That’s a disappointment because he’s so talented, and I thought he was on a roll after last year’s “Battle Of The Sexes” and “Last Flag Flying.” I hope he makes better choices in 2019.
I can only give “Welcome To Marwen” a 1 out of 10. It is a contender for my Worst Movies Of The Year list, which I’ll reveal next week.