Cinematic Releases: Purified Escapism: Welcome To Marwen (2018) Reviewed

Through an extremely sympathetic eye, Robert Zemeckis offers up a dual sided plot that's loosely based on the true story of Marwencol, Mark Hogencamp's art installation that helped him escape from reality after a near death attack. 

Partially taking place in an alternate world where heroic female dolls assist Captain Hogie in his long winded battle with a squad of Nazis and the brutal one in which Hogancamp actually lives, this is both a strange and surreal piece of cinema that aims high but sometimes stutters and crashes. Due to the non-typical storytelling here, many may not connect with what Zemeckis tried to do with a script that sometimes lacks fine detail. Luckily enough, I could see through some of the criticisms the film is receiving and actually quite enjoyed watching Carell attempt to do something brand new with his dramatic skill set. If anything, Welcome To Marwen is worth watching just for his performance alone. He's nearing critical mass with his role here. 

While many are discounting the film's value and potentially the way it assumes a sometimes distant personality, I'll be in the minority and say this movie actually delivered nearly everything I had expected, flaws and all. Whenever it crosses into fantastical territory, it was hard not to wish that they actually just stayed there. The doll sequences feature a lot of great humor, outlandish ideas, and a wondrous story about being yourself while a multi-cultured crew of gun slinging dolls help conquer the big bad. Marwen is about using purified escapism to hide from the dangers of this evil world. At the cost of many tear jerking moments and some dynamic sequences between Carell and Leslie Mann, it shows us how coping mechanisms can work on all different fronts and across a wide array of personalities. 

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Where it does begin to falter is when they make the jump back to reality, leaving us to feel slightly discombobulated or separated from what they're attempting to build in that animated world. Perhaps the coolest thing about this feature is seeing the often mediocre Zemeckis try his directorial hand at something fresh and unique. Again, it's not perfect by any means, but Marwen is a high concept art film that's being put into the regular rotation of the Christmas season at the big box cineplexes. Not everyone is going to love this. But I did. 

Hogancamp's real life is not a simple one, meaning it's easy to understand how challenging a project this must have been to work on. And it shows. There are definitely slow points that should have been cut along with some fat that could've been trimmed. But still, the core of the story is so revealing and new that it just felt right to me. 

Yet, Welcome To Marwen uses stunning CGI work that meshes seamlessly with exacted detail with beautiful realism that's  wound up into its own self contained story about a man battling his mortal enemies. Crossing it with the PTSD struggles of Hogencamp as he attempts to come to terms with his attack, Welcome To Marwen should not be considered an accessible film that people will flock to. However, the backdrop of a man that's coming to terms with his mortality and his very own personality is a great watch, at least for me. 

-Chris George