McCann At The Movies: ‘Welcome To Marwen’ Is Well-Intentioned But Poorly Executed

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John McCann says ‘Welcome To Marwen’ is a visually superb, well intentioned but poorly executed true story that will split audiences…

Robert Zemeckis, director of such classics as Back to the Future and Forest Gump has in recent times taken to redeveloping the source material of some extraordinary documentaries as his source material for his most recent feature films and unfortunately not always to great effect.

He did in with 2015’s ‘The Walk’ mirroring what already was an astonishing award-winning documentary in ‘Man on Wire’ and here he rehashes the subject matter of the compelling 2010 doc ‘Marwencol’ in his latest feature ‘Welcome to Marwen’.

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The main pitfall with this film making strategy is that, in these two cases, the documentaries were so strong that the feature film remakes were simply not needed and in both instances did nothing to improve on the original subjects.

Welcome to Marwen tells the compelling true story of Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) who when a devastating attack shatters and wipes away all memories, puts together pieces from his old and new life to create a wondrous town where he can heal and be heroic.


As he builds an astonishing art installation—a testament to the most powerful women he knows — through his fantasy world, he draws strength to triumph in the real one.

Gathering together a stellar and talented cast — with Steve Carrell again demonstrating his remarkable range as an actor —  that includes Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger and Janelle Monáe and combining this talent with some incredible visual effects, director Robert Zemeckis almost assembles a worthy feature film.

It is however, by and large, a disjointed, tonal mess with serious pacing issues that falls short in capturing the essence of the true story of Mark Hogancamp and as a result does both his character and tale a real disservice.

Mirroring his inner Charlie Kaufmann, Zemeckis cannot decide whether this film is for an art house or mainstream audience and in the end caters for neither.

Whereas his ambition in assembling such a bold and technically complex film is to be commended and as much as there is to admire in the visual effects in the film, it is only when the real life actors get their stage back that this film resembles any real heart and conviction.

The shoehorned pop reference to a time when Zemeckis made awe-inspiring influential films is also deafening in its lack of subtlety and only serves to remind us how far this legendary filmmaker has fallen in recent times.

Overall, although it may look spectacular (and it really does) and contain some solid performances (Steve Carell deserves so much more that what he was given to work with here) it is on the whole a missed opportunity to capture the remarkable true story in the manner in which it deserves to be told.


• For more of John McCann’s movie reviews, check out his Facebook page here and website here

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