Here’s What Critics Really Thought of Steve Carell’s Movie ‘Welcome to Marwen’

Steve Carell plays the lead role in the film Welcome to Marwen. The movie hasn’t gotten quite as much buzz as Aquaman and Mary Poppins Returns, so you might be hesitant to go and see it. If you need some guidance, here’s a roundup of what critics thought of the movie.


Steve Carell attends Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures' premiere of "Welcome To Marwen" at ArcLight Hollywood on December 10, 2018 in Hollywood, California.

Steve Carell | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

CNN’s Brian Lowry had mixed reviews. He liked the visual appeal of the movie but wasn’t too impressed with the storytelling. He described the film as “tedious” and “predictable.”

Welcome to Marwen is such an eccentric film that it wins a few points for sheer ambition, including its inventive visual scheme. The central story, however — which is inspired by a remarkable true one — never feels as transcendent or stirring as director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis clearly intends it to be.

Carell is also joined by a good cast, seen mostly in doll form, with Diane Kruger, Janelle Monae, Eiza Gonzalez, Merritt Wever and Gwendoline Christie among the alter egos in his rich fantasy world. Once the novelty wears off, though, Marwen becomes a tedious, rather predictable slog, one where the music seems to swell enthusiastically at every available opportunity. Those flourishes bring a warm fuzziness to the proceedings that feels at odds with much of what transpires, given the vaguely erotic and violent nature of the images that Marwen presents.

The Boston Globe

Steve Carell

Steve Carell | Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for BFI

The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr did not like this movie at all. He gave Welcome to Marwen one star. Burr says the film, which is based on a true story, was “mishandled.” He says the film is so bad that movie goers should “avert their eyes.”

I regret to report that virtually nothing about Welcome to Marwen works. A strange and true tale of a lonely man creating art out of damage has been coated with a thick shell of digital effects and Hollywood treacle by people who should know better. The tone is almost willfully off-putting. The parts that are supposed to be cute could give you the creeps. The film is almost a Platonic ideal of how to take an emotionally transfixing real-life story and get it wrong.

If you recall the Tropic Thunder debate about actors playing mentally impaired characters—sorry, I can’t quote it here — you’ll be relieved to know that Carell doesn’t go the full . . . distance. He still goes further than feels necessary or right, and that itself stands as a well-intentioned insult to a man who’s seen more than enough injury. Avert your eyes. We will not speak of this again.


Steve and Nancy Carell | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Newsday’s Rafer Guzmán enjoyed the film. He says the special effects bring the movie to life.

Welcome to Marwen features Steve Carell as Mark Hogancamp, a man whose near-death beating outside a bar led him to build doll-sized World War II dioramas full of Nazi villains, buxom women and a brave pilot-version of himself.

By and large, [the film] works. Carell perfectly captures Hogancamp’s awkwardness and childlike innocence (the beating erased virtually all his memories). Leslie Mann is charming as Nicol, a new arrival to upstate Kingston, where Hogancamp lives. Smitten, he creates a doll version of Nicol (with alluring heels) to live in his made-up town, Marwen. She joins versions of his caretaker, Anna (Gwendoline Christie); his physical therapist, Julie (Janelle Monae); a local waitress, Carlala (Eiza Gonzalez); and a hobby-shop owner, Roberta (an achingly good Merritt Wever), all equally sexed-up and well-shod.

The motion-capture technology and animation techniques that turn the actors into dolls are marvelous. Shoulders and knees have ball-and-socket joints, faces have the stiffness of plastic, yet the dolls move and emote uncannily like their actor-counterparts. Though the fantasy sequences can feel repetitive—Nazis attack Hogancamp, the women rescue him in a hail of bullets— there is deep emotional meaning running throughout this movie.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!