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Posts Tagged ‘“Welcome to Marwen”’

Steve Carell

“WELCOME TO MARWEN” My rating: C-

116 minutes | MPAA rating:PG-13

In 2000 cross-dressing artist Mark Hogancamp suffered a barroom beating that left him in a  coma.  When he awoke he  could remember little of his previous life and could no longer draw.

Unable to afford therapy, he found an artistic and healing outlet by building a 1/6-size World War II Belgian village in his yard, populating it with G.I. Joes and Barbie dolls, and telling elaborate melodramas of Nazis and freedom fighters captured in striking photographic images.

Sounds like a story ripe for cinematic adaptation…and, indeed, Hogancamp was the subject of the excellent 2010 documentary “Marwencol” (that was the name of his miniature town).

Now writer/director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump,” the “Back to the Future” series) has given us a feature film with Steve Carell as Hogancamp…and it proves one movie too many.

“Welcome to Marwen” has its heart in the right place, but it just doesn’t work.

If Zemeckis and co-writer Caroline Thompson (“Edward Scissorhands,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Corpse Bride”) had simply stuck to Hogancamp’s day-to-day life they might have had something.

Instead they devote half the film to animated fantasy sequences set in Marwen.  Here Hogancamp’s toy alter ego — a downed American pilot named Hogie — and his all-woman crew of resistance fighters take on nasty Germans.

There are violent shootouts and unsettling scenes of torture. Our knowledge that these are dolls being blown apart makes it a bit more  bearable, while their dialogue — thick with Saturday matinee cliches — is initially  amusing.

In the real world the traumatized Hogancamp must deal with all sorts of issues.  He’s expected to attend the sentencing hearing for the five men convicted of beating him. He has a big photographic show planned in NYC, but may be too rocky to attend. And he’s always having to explain his obsession with women’s footwear (he has more than 200 pairs of ladies’ shoes in his closet) and his need to drag behind him a toy jeep containing the Hogie and girl gang dolls (think of them as a sort of service dog).

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