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What to know: A bit disappointing, despite its inspiring true story and talented cast and crew.
Recommended age 11-18
116 minutes
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Welcome to Marwen is disappointing, despite its very inspiring true story and many talents. Some performances, impeccable direction and a beautiful animation style save it somewhat. Fans of Zemeckis may want to check it out, but should vastly lower their expectations.

The plot follows the true story of Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell), a former war writer turned photographer after a hate crime left him an amnesiac. Split into two distinct plotlines, one of which is Mark's everyday life, as he photographs his dolls made to resemble himself and important women in his life (Leslie Mann, Merrit Wever, Janelle Monae, Eliza Gonzalez, Gwendoline Christie, Leslie Zemeckis and Diane Kruger) the other is a doll world, as acted by his dolls and led by his doppelganger doll, Captain Hogie. Both follow Mark on his road to recovery, as the doll world mirrors events from real life.

Steve Carrell, as Mark Hogancamp/Captain Hogie, is my favorite character, as he delivers an inspirational and emotionally charged performances that captures all ends of his trauma and strength in recovery. He pays pure respect to the real-life artist, despite a detrimental script. Leslie Mann, as Nicol, is extremely vibrant in all her interactions, but that comes with a price as her scripted lines make her seem somewhat like a cartoon character. Despite this, it is easy to see why she has the impact she does in Mark's recovery. The rest of the women in the film, from the doll store owner Roberta (Merritt Weaver) to the mysterious Deja Thoris (Diane Kruger) all shine. This roster also includes compelling performances from Janelle Monae, Eliza Gonzalez, Gwendoline Christie and Leslie Zemeckis, even if their interactions prove to be cartoonish and stereotypical at times.

Robert Zemeckis aptly directs the movie, as he does always. Although the flair of Back to the Future or even Forest Gump is missing here. It is very well shot, but the meaning of the film matches up to nothing like his previous work. My favorite scene is the initial courtroom encounter, as it truly embodies the anxiety that Mark faces from seeing his attackers. It is very creative, with an eye for visuals putting us into the moment of his fright. The flaws in the movie are not just in the lackluster script, but also in various pacing issues. The doll world plot, despite its many creative action scenes, does not make any sense as to how it helps him recover and there are too many sub-plot that try to make up the lack of movie flair. The movie slows down because of this. Despite that, the real-world plot fares much better, with its compelling share of characters that give his personal plight an explainable and inspiring recovery.

The message of this film is that trusting in friends and acting upon creativity helps alleviate our stress. I give this film 2.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 because of violence, mature themes, and brief sexual references. The movie releases in theaters on December 21, 2018, so check it out.

Reviewed by Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

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On April 8, 2000, aspiring artist Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) became a victim of a violent assault when five men beat him up and left him for dead. Following the attack, Mark was left with little to no memory of his previous life due to brain damage inflicted by his attackers. In a desperate attempt to regain his memories, Hogancamp constructs a miniature World War II village called Marwen in his yard to help in his recovery. Unfortunately, Mark's demons come back to haunt him when he's asked to testify against the five men that attacked him.
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