Welcome to Marwen might just be the hardest film ever to describe – but that’s nothing compared to how awkward it is to actually watch.
Steve Carell plays a somewhat delicate, almost child-like artist in upstate New York, who has recreated a Belgium village from World War II in his garden where he re-stages battle scenes with barbie dolls and action figures in stop motion and then turns them into huge photographs with his stills camera.
It’s actually based on the real-life story of Mark Hogancamp, whose work was turned into a documentary a few years ago, and is now the subject of this baffling misfire from that great mainstream technical cinematic innovator Robert Zemeckis, the man behind Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, Polar Express, Back to the Future and Beowulf.
Now, while it’s still interesting to see the special effects at work, the representation of all the female fantasy figures as skinny-waisted, busty Barbie dolls feels more than out of place, and quickly turns our lead character into something of a creep, particularly as he fantasises over a ridiculously sympathetic new neighbour played by Leslie Mann and watches soft porn on old VHS tapes.
Carell does try to find a heart for the picture and the character – we slowly unravel his complicated history as a cross dresser and collector of womens shoes – but, it’s either too weird and sentimental or just plain painful to watch.
I can’t believe there wasn’t a studio executive who saw the rushes of this and didn’t just say “Bob – we loved A Christmas Carol and all your effects and the Oscars and the small-town Americana you captured in Back to the Future, but it’s time to stop with this mash-up of your obsessions, you’re getting a bit weird now.”
Welcome to Marwen is more like welcome to the first great flop of 2019…