Mark (Carell) is an artist – who happens to like women's shoes. One night he got drunk at a local bar and mentioned his affinity for high heels. Five men later attacked him as he was walking home, beating him so badly that he was in a coma for nine days. After he awoke, he could not remember anything about his life and had to learn how to do things all over again. Recognizing he had once been a talented artist, he created a world he called Marwen and filled it with dolls.
These weren't just any dolls though – they were fashioned after people in his life- friends, and family – and he used them to create stories and take photographs. When a new neighbor, Nicol "without an E at the end" (Leslie Mann; The 40-Year-Old Virgin), Mark adds a new doll to his collection and new thought in his head. He decides to propose to Nicol but does not get the result he expected. Ironically, the rejection helps him to move forward in life, face his attackers in court and attend the opening of his art show.
Carell is a wonderful choice to play this complex character who seems carefree and relaxed one moment and stressed and tense the next. He makes the audience feel sympathetic towards Marc while not necessarily pitying him. Mann blends well with Carell making their friendship believable. The rest of the supporting cast are very good as well. The soft-spoken Merritt Wever (Michael Clayton) has a nice calming effect as Marc's friend Roberta. The other ladies in "Hogie's" entourage are well cast but I wish Janelle Monae would have been given more as I felt she was underutilized.
Zemeckis makes great use of the live action, motion capture animation and the results are truly amazing. Watching these dolls come to life is extraordinary and the minute details are evident from their hair to the clothing and their weapons. Unfortunately, the script isn't as strong. While you feel bad for Mark as you watch his struggles, there isn't much of a storyline to become invested in. In addition, it seems a little unbelievable that everyone is nice and kind to Mark and I wonder if the real Mark Hogancamp lives in such an idyllic town.
The 1080p video quality highlights the attention to detail displayed on the dolls and the "town" of Marwen. The colors are bright and vibrant with no evident graininess. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 is terrific, especially during the fighting sequences. Each pop of the guns is clean and crisp. The Blu-ray houses the approximately twenty-five minutes of extras, which includes Deleted Scenes, Marwen's Citizens, A Visionary Director, Building Marwen and Living Dolls. The extras that discuss Mark and his world are interesting but the "love letter" to Zemeckis could have probably been left off.
Welcome to Marwen doesn't grab you from the start but the story of Marc Hogancamp and his injury is fascinating. The way he chose to "heal" himself when he couldn't afford therapy is interesting and I wish there would have been more about what happened and his injuries. It's an amazing real-life story that seems like a natural fit for a major motion picture but it got bogged down somewhere in translation.