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Welcome to Marwen

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Welcome to Marwen Movie Poster Image
Art helps man cope with trauma in fact-based drama.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes include value of hard-won courage, perseverance that leads to tangible rewards, and emotional growth that occurs thanks to support from others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mark Hogancamp is a real person who's depicted here as flawed but heroic, caring, compassionate, brave. Other characters are kind and giving, though feel somewhat like props there merely to help Hogancamp, rather than coming across as real, whole people. He clearly reveres women, but female characters' only concern seems to be what they can do or have done for him, without feelings, opinions, or life of their own.

Violence

Many scenes of doll-on-doll violence, which can lean toward gruesome: A doll man's body falls apart, doll soldiers are crisped into ashes, machine gun-toting dolls riddle other dolls with bullets. All of it has a plasticky, unreal feel that affects its impact, but it's still frequent. Hogancamp's attack is shown in brief flashbacks during which he's kicked on the ground and then has a bloody face. 

Sex

Hogancamp has a one-sided crush on another character (he proposes to her in a painful scene). A topless doll (her doll breasts have no nipples) runs and fights, and some of Hogancamp's illustrations depict a woman naked from the waist up. 

Language

Language includes "s--t," "dammit," "goddamn," "hell," "ass," "crap," "d--k," "c--k," and insults used to describe Nazi soldiers ("kraut," "filthy scum"), bodies ("fat ass"), and sexuality ("queer"). German swear "Scheisse." "Oh my God."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Hogancamp smokes cigarettes and fights (ultimately successfully) an addiction to anti-anxiety medication. Alcohol played a part in his attack: He was drunk when he said something that provoked group of drunk men to attack him.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Welcome to Marwen is director Robert Zemeckis' fact-based drama about a man named Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) who recovers from trauma by creating a miniature world populated by dolls. Viewers see the trauma -- a terrible beating -- in brief flashbacks; a couple of upsetting scenes show Mark being kicked and pummeled. Otherwise, violence largely takes the form of bloody battles between the dolls in Mark's miniature town -- they can be a bit gruesome, albeit played for humor. Dolls riddle other dolls with machine gun fire, Molotov cocktails crisp doll bodies, and a doll falls out of a high tower and his body splits in two. There's some doll nudity, too, with a topless (but also nipple-less) female doll shown fighting and running. Another topless woman is seen in some of Mark's illustrations. Alcohol played a part in Mark's attack, so he hasn't had any since, but he is fighting an addiction to anti-anxiety medications, and he smokes cigarettes. Infrequent swearing includes "s--t," "goddamn," "hell," and insults such as "kraut," "queer," "filthy scum," and "fat ass." The female characters come across as having no feelings or opinions that don't hinge on Mark and his life. But courage, perseverance, and emotional growth are clear themes of the film.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byHg1006 December 23, 2018

Not what I thought

Do not go in expecting a happy feel good family movie. Honestly, during the movie my husband texted and said what are we watching. Even though dolls portray th... Continue reading
Parent Written byUtahRed December 25, 2018

Really disappointed

Based on the trailer I expected a feel good movie but instead it was a highly sexualized film about a guy with a shoe fetish. If I had known, I wouldn't... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bysimone252 December 22, 2018

Good movie, mis-advertised

when you see the trailer for this movie it may look like a quiet sad movie, when in reality it has more action than expected. this movie is getting bad reviews... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byedeemalley December 27, 2018

Left the theater after 40 min

Although the movie has an amazing cast and interesting plot, the violence and sexualization is over the top. There is an abundance of violence with the dolls, e... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on the true story of a man who learned to cope with terrible trauma through the power of art and imagination, WELCOME TO MARWEN tells the tale of Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell), a man who recovers from a terrible beating by creating a world of his own. Before he was attacked by five men outside a bar, Mark was a talented illustrator with a decent life. After the beating, he was left barely able to walk, talk, hold a pencil, or remember much of anything about his past. By creating and photographing a WWII-era town peopled by tiny versions of himself and the people in his life, Mark learns how to take control of his life again -- and tries to work up the courage to face his attackers in court. 

Is it any good?

With a fragile beauty and sweetness that's marred by a slight story and underdeveloped characters, this redemption fable is heartwarming but ultimately too insubstantial to pack a major punch. Carell, always a pro at finding the humanity in imperfect characters, is as reliably lovable as ever, and Hogancamp's story is a stunner that's particularly well-suited for cinema (it was previously explored in the documentary Marwencol). The film's opening, which drops viewers into Marwen's doll-sized world, is simply enchanting. But the more time we spend in Marwen, the less we like it. Mark spins out simple battle scenarios with his dolls, and the many pow-pow-pow scenes between heroes and villains grow wearying; they start to feel like they're simply there to pad out the film's running time. 

A better solution would have been to widen the film's focus and flesh out some of the side characters. The Marwen doll cast is largely female, with many based on women in Mark's life: the bartender who discovered him after his vicious beating (voiced by Stefanie von Pfetten), the therapist who helped him walk again (Janelle Monae), the next-door neighbor on whom he nurses a crush (Leslie Mann). But our view of them is limited only to what they can do or have done for Mark: Just about every line spoken by a female character is about Mark in some way. They seem content merely to worry about and discuss his life and don't seem to have feelings, opinions, or a life of their own. The film clearly sees something sweet in Mark's affinity for women; he views his penchant for cross-dressing as an attempt to connect with the "essence" of womanhood and at one point even screams out that "women are the saviors of the world!" It's a telling line, and a frustrating one, because even if he sees the women of this movie as revered objects, they're still objects. And in a movie about redemption and humanity, extending generosity to just one character blunts the impact of its messages, making Welcome to Marwen more of a treat for the eyes than the heart. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the main idea of Welcome to Marwen: that art and creativity can help heal trauma and connect people. Do you agree? Does art play a role in your life? If so, what? Is it easier to express your emotions creatively than by simply talking? Why or why not?

  • Find out a little about the real Mark Hogancamp's life. Is his story more compelling because it's true? Or does the biographical nature of the movie limit its story? How accurate do you think the movie is to what happened?

  • How does Mark demonstrate courage and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

  • How do you feel about the different types of violence in the film? Did the live-action scenes have a different impact on you than the doll-based scenes? Why do you think that is?

Movie details

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