Welcome to Marwen 1.0 stars

Adult Toy Story. Adult as in, the person playing with the toys is an adult: Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell), an artist who has lost both his memory and his ability to draw following a brutal beating that stems from his drunken barroom admission that he likes to wear women’s shoes. But the artistic impulse remains, and so he spends his time photographing dolls (action figures?) in scenes from Marwen, a backyard scale-model Belgium town mired in World War II. Marwen is named for two of the women who helped save him — a kindly bartender and a tough physical therapist — and those women, among others he knows and admires, also show up as the town’s residents. He’s there, too, in the person of a brave soldier who also enjoys wearing ladies’ shoes — because they connect him to the essence of dames. But of course, there are brutish Nazis about, not to mention a mysterious town witch who wants him all for herself. Also adult as in adult themes and situations. Hogancamp is not a charming man-child happily living in his imagination. He’s a deeply damaged man-man who wishes like hell he could get out of his imagination and into the arms of a real woman. There’s a compelling story somewhere in this material: maybe it already got told by the 2010 documentary Marwencol? At any rate, what Robert Zemeckis serves up here sure ain’t it. Goopy-minded short shrift is given to nearly everything it touches on: mental illness, medication, addiction, artmaking, recovery from trauma… but the animated doll sequences are intriguing, which may give some indication of the director’s real interest here. 2018.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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