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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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."
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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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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