Simple Review- G.I. D’oh
If you were lucky enough to grow up in the Eighties then you can’t help but be a fan of Robert Zemeckis. With a list of hits such as Romancing the Stone, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and, of course, the Back to the Future trilogy it would be difficult to not find one of his movies to love. Being one of those nerdy kids that the Eighties shaped into an emotionally stunted adult, I am always excited to see what movie the imagination of Zemeckis creates. This week Bobby delivers his latest creative vision in the form of Welcome to Marwen, a Hollywood version of a true life story so you know it must be accurate! You may be asking, ” What make you of this Marwen flick, Movie Psycho?” I am glad you asked my friend, and the answer lies in my imaginary life as a G.I. Joe or in the next paragraph, whichever is easier for you to comprehend.
Welcome to Marwen tells the story of Mark Hogancamp, played by Steve Carell, a real-life artist that was viciously attacked by some worthless pieces of garbage to the point he lost his memory and ability to draw. As part of his recovery process, he invented a town called Marwen ( well Marwenco in real life) and photographed dolls in W.W.II outfits creating new art out of his tragedy. Zemeckis intertwines the story of Hogancamp trying to deal with life after the assault with the heroic adventures of Cap’n Hogie and the women of Marwen, Mark’s doll alter ego. After watching the trailer for this movie I did some research ( By research I mean looking it up online and reading the first article I found, like any true internet genius) and found the true-life story to be fascinating and couldn’t wait to see the visual magic Zemeckis would use to tell Mark’s story. While the movie is definitely unique visually, it suffers from a boring script and some weak performances from some of the actors. As always, let’s start with the positives of this toy story before we tear open the packages to make this movie less than mint in package.
The best thing I can say about Welcome to Marwen is that the weaving of the story between the real world and the imaginary town of Marwen is visually creative. The CGI dolls are well designed to give each of the characters their own look to reflect Mark’s perceived image of them. Mark has crafted a doll for each of the important women in his life and given them a tough character to help Cap’n Hogie fight the endless attacks on Marwen by evil Nazi’s. Through his dolls we see him develop a crush on his neighbor Nicol, played by Leslie Mann. He puts her on a pedestal and each scene she is in reflects his image of her as perfect, though we know she can’t live up to his lofty views. I credit the movie for weaving in and out of Mark’s mind and showing all of his quirks, especially his rather unique fascination for collecting a certain something I am not going to give away, through the clever use of these dolls.
On the acting front, the only stand out to me was Merritt Wever as Roberta the young lady that works at the hobby shop Mark shops at. She had some chemistry with Steve Carell and their scenes together seemed the most organic. She brought a much-needed reality to this movie and when she was on screen the movie had my attention. I did like Gwendoline Christie in a role that didn’t require any type of armor, although she is only in the movie briefly. Everyone else was either in the movie all too briefly or not that memorable. Other than that, there was a nice Back to the Future reference and a few other humorous moments but for the love of me, I can’t think of anything else that positive to say. The popcorn was tasty.
It is that time when we tie an M-80 to this G.I. Joe and watch what happens when plastic meets gunpowder. To say I was disappointed by this movie would be an understatement. As I wrote earlier, the subject matter is so unique and interesting that I believed there would be a great movie in there. This movie, unfortunately, is very by the numbers and clunky in the real world story. The better story would have been seeing Mark recovering from the assault and creating the world of Marwen, instead, we are introduced to Mark well after he created his W.W.II city and is on the verge of his first art show. We get some flashbacks but not enough to add weight to Mark’s struggle. We are told by a lot of characters how bad things were but without seeing the struggles the ending lacks some reward. The dialogue is very clunky sounding much like:
Person: I heard about you being beaten to within an inch of your life
Mark: Yes it was awful being beaten to within an inch of my life
Person: It is inspiring that you are so strong after being beaten within an inch of your life.
As you know, my reliable reader, I enjoy the visual side of storytelling in movies and this type of dialogue is frustrating because it is lazy and trying to make me feel something that needs to been seen to add emotion to the moment.
The acting is equally frustrating considering the talent assembled. Steve Carell does his best but ultimately I think this role should have been a bit darker, or at least with more range to convey Mark’s difficulty dealing with his PTSD. Not saying Carell is bad, just not right for this part. It doesn’t help that I am a huge Office fan and there were moments in this movie where Mark tries to be romantic but it loses the emotion it needed when I thought to myself’ ” Self, this is something Michael Scott would do.” His main crush is with Nicol, played by the aforementioned Leslie Mann who is completely miscast in this film. She has zero chemistry with Steve Carell, which is weird as the two worked well together in The 40-year-old Virgin. She is very bland in this movie giving no emotion to the character. There is a sweet moment as Mark is telling her the story of Marwen that Carell is giving a great performance and when he is done telling her she has this bland response that kills all of the momentum. I get the filmmakers trying to give Mark a love interest but the chemistry between Roberta and Mark is much better and sweeter in the film and would have been the better way to go.
As much as the CGI doll parts were fun to watch, it does feel like the movie goes into this world a few times too many. When you start to get invested in the real world moments, the movie goes back to Cap’n Hogie and the women of Marwen going on an adventure to save their new astronaut friend Buzz Light…what’s that?… I am sorry reliable reader but according to one of the voices in my head, that is the wrong talking toy movie. I apologize as it is late and I haven’t taken my meds yet. As I was saying, there are times when the movie uses the Marwen world to hit you over the head with what Mark is going through when dealing more in the real world would have, again, added more weight to his difficulties. The women of Marwen are not given much in the way of character growth or development, and while I suppose that makes sense from Mark’s perspective, a little more development would have been nice.
We have reached the time to put our dolls back in the toy box and wrap up this review for Welcome to Marwen (And with only one Toy Story joke, aren’t you impressed?). Some will tell you this is the worst movie of the year or it is terrible and it is neither. Trust me I don’t lie to you, and I sat through Happytime Murders so I know for a fact what the worst movie of the year was! This is just a middle of the road movie which is a shame as the source material is fascinating and deserving of a better effort. There is a documentary about Marwen that I haven’t seen but have heard it is much better than this film. I plan on checking it out soon. As far as Welcome to Marwen goes, I do not recommend visiting the theater to see it but if it comes on TV one rainy day check it out and kill two hours.
I hope you enjoyed my silly review and if you did please like, comment, follow and share to the masses to better their simple lives!.
As always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho