WELCOME TO MARWEN – Review by Susan Granger

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.