In recent years, visionary filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump,” “Cast Away”) has become obsessed with experimental technology, particularly motion-capture animation (“The Polar Express,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Beowulf”).
Now he turns his attention to the fantasyland created by an eccentric artist with PTSD…
In his backyard in upstate Kingston, New York, Mark Hogancamp has meticulously constructed a 1/6-scale W.W.II Belgian village named Marwen, where a plastic American G.I., Capt. Hogie (his alter-ego), battles Nazis with the help of a heroic squadron of leggy, gun-toting, Barbie doll-like women.
Once a gifted illustrator, Mark (Steve Carell) is now unable to draw. He suffers from extensive brain injuries, including amnesia, caused by a brutal ‘hate’ attack. And the sentencing hearing for his five assailants is rapidly approaching, along with the Greenwich Village gallery opening of his photographic work.
Mark’s figurines include Anna (Gwendoline Christie), his nurse/caregiver; Julie (Janelle Monae), his physical therapist; Carlala (Eliza Gonzales), who cooks at the local diner; Roberta (Merritt Wever), who works in the hobby shop; and Suzette (Leslie Zemeckis, the director’s wife), his favorite porn actress.
A new ‘doll’ is added when syrupy sweet, sundress-clad Nicol (Leslie Mann) moves in across the street. And Mark’s anti-depressant addiction is personified by the evil blue-haired witch Deja Thoris (voiced by Diane Kruger).
Clumsily scripted by director Robert Zemeckis and Caroline Thompson, it depicts Mark’s perverted perception of the world, superficially skimming over Mark’s preference for cross-dressing and fetish for women’s stilettos – which prompted the vicious attack.
“I collect women’s essence,” Mark explains. “I wear heels sometimes because they connect me to dames. I like dames.”
FYI: There’s a real Mark Hogancamp whose highly imaginative healing-through-art was chronicled in Jeff Malmberg’s insightful documentary “Marwencol” (2010).
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Welcome to Marwen” is a creepy 4, too full of campy artifice to be effective.