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Welcome to Marwen

It seems like Director Robert Zemekcis has been trying to replace live actors with plastic replicas for 15 years. With "Polar Express", "Beowulf" and "A Christmas Carol", his CGI replicas for his actors reached new highs and lows.

But NEVER anything as bad, as ill-conceived or just uncomfortably creepy as 2018's WELCOME TO MARWEN.

Based on a true story, we meet Mark Hogencamp (Steve Carell) a talented artist suffering with brain damage from a vicious beating and hate crime inflicted by four lowlifes outside a bar.

Hogencamp can no longer draw. His injuries leave him barely able to write. But he's an incredibly talented photographer.

Immersing himself in a 1/6 scale Belgium WWII village he's built in his yard, Mark lives vicariously through his miniature town and the dolls that he photographs in it.

There's his alter ago Cap'n Hogie, the ultimate American serviceman, loaded with bravado, bravery and macho strength, all things that have been beaten out of Mark.

All the women that surround him have alter egos as well. His weekly nurse Anna (Gwendoline Christie from "Game of Thrones), hobby store owner Roberta (Meritt Wever) and physical therapist Julie (Janelle Monae) all become undercover female agents brandishing huge machine guns to take out Nazi forces.

As Zemeckis switches back and forth between the real world and Hogencamp's imaginary world in the town, the make believe town never "feels" right. The doll characters are somehow too human and too plastic at the same time. It's all cringe worthy and uncomfortable.

The screenplay by Zemeckis and Caroline Thompson (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands) is a mess, loaded with bad dialogue in the small town and boring exposition in the real world.

Worse, there are very few surprises in either place, at least if ONE of them had been interesting you'd be glad to be back. Instead it just goes on forever.

Carell is excellent as Hogencamp. The frustration and terror of his brain damage is realistically portrayed and his afternoon tea with his new neighbor Nicol (Leslie Mann, very good) is heartbreaking.

There were maybe three good action minutes in the film, but even Zemeckis' trademark great special effects can't save him.

It's as if he listened to all the critics who said the people in "Polar Express" looked dead in the eyes and he said "Screw You, here's what dead in the eyes looks like!"

It smells of desperation in the final act when Zemeckis actually does a long reference to his "Back to the Future" as part of the fantasy world climax. He's got composer Alan Silvestri on hand to throw in some music cues that only serve to remind you of better films.

Even the real world courtroom finale against his attackers fails to deliver. Just like the rest of the film, it feels forced and incomplete.

Zemeckis has had a few flops recently, but I am usually very in sync with him and loved the mega bomb "The Walk" in 2015, it was one of my favorite films of that year.

Not this time.

I never felt welcome in Marwen and couldn't wait to leave. These dolls should NEVER have made it out of the box.

Chucky movies are less creepy than this misfire.

MARWEN gets a D.

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