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Welcome to Marwen


Stars: Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Merritt Wever, Janelle Monae, Matt O'Leary

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Still recovering from being beaten to within an inch of his life by five barroom thugs, Mark Hogencamp (Carell), an illustrator of graphic war stories, is now a shambling wreck with no memory of his past (except the attack), doing menial tasks at a local fast-food outlet, living on pills and dreading the next court appearance where his attackers are appealing against sentencing.

At home, he retreats into his dream world, photographing dolls in various positions to tell a story. These stories are fantasies of WW2 action, with himself, Capt 'Hoagy', as the hero. He has half a dozen glamorous female dolls, plus five Nazi figures, and has constructed an entire Belgian village in his grounds, which he calls Marwen, after two girls who saved his life.

He interacts with the dolls, provides dialogue and awful puns and of course sees to it that the Germans always lose. The film makes it hard to tell when the figures are animated or real, which naturally reflects the state of Mark's mind.

The girl in the doll shop (Wever) is friendly and caring, but it's his new neighbour Nicol (Mann), who attracts Mark's romantic attention. He buys a red-haired doll from the store and integrates her into the adventures, as 'Hoagy' falls in love with her.

Carell is fine in the pivotal role of Mark, but veteran director Zemeckis seems to find it hard to provide a focus in all this, so that one's mind drifts away from the samey 'puppet' adventures. It didn't ring my bell, I'm afraid, although I can see that the based-on-truth film could attract some audiences to its fragile fun.

David Quinlan

USA/Canada 2018. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
114 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 27 Dec 2018