Robert Zemeckis was always going to tell the true story of Mark Hogancamp in one way, which probably means he shouldn’t have been the one to tell it at all. Steve Carell plays Hogancamp, an upstate New York man who barely survives a hate-crime assault, is left with severe and traumatic memory loss, and copes with recovery by creating a detailed, 1/6th scale world set in World War II-era Belgium. Zemeckis brings that world to life with computer-generated action-figure versions of Carell and his co-stars (including Leslie Mann and Janell Monáe)—and does so in a way that grossly misunderstands the nature of Hogancamp’s story, as he trots out comic-relief gags and action beats based on the dolls’ inhuman physicality, and suggests Hogancamp conflates fantasy and reality. So while the story is technically impressive—and provides Mann in particular with some sensitively-observed acting moments—Marwen sacrifices the psychological complexity of its roots so that Zemeckis can once again experiment in his CGI-cinema playground. If anyone here is spending too much time in a manufactured universe to avoid the messiness of real life, it’s the filmmaker.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Producer: Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Cherylanne Martin, Jacqueline Levine and Jeff Malmberg
Cast: Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Janelle Monáe, Eiza González, Merritt Wever, Gwendoline Christie, Leslie Zemeckis, Neil Jackson, Matt O'Leary, Falk Hentschel, Stefanie von Pfetten and Siobhan Williams