This movie had “Oscar bait” written all over it — another technical tour de force from Robert Zemeckis, with Steve Carell in the Tom Hanks/”Forrest Gump” role — as a mugging victim channeling his psychic wounds through dolls he collects, poses in combat situations.
Our hero photographs those posed, bloodied GI Joes, Barbies and Kens, and this war that he’s fighting in his mind — an imagined World War II Belgian combat zone he calls Marwen — becomes chic and talked about.
And I’m assuming that is what led Zemeckis to this story and this holiday feel-good epic.
The Oscar bait? Nobody seems to have taken it — no SAG, Golden Globes nominations/recognition. Perhaps it is technically dazzling and Zemeckis ran right up against the limits of what Carell can comfortably get across in a performance (rather like “Beautiful Boy”). Perhaps it isn’t technically dazzling at all, or the story’s been juiced and reduced to romantic/sentimental “recovery” tropes. That’s what the final trailer for the film suggests.
Still, I’ve been looking forward to it, as have millions of others. How do I know? I’ve literally been dining out on my review of “Marwencol,” written in 2010, producing staggering online traffic all this year thanks to interest in this movie.
It might be the holiday release that is actually “about something,” as I like to say when criticizing popcorn pics, comic book movies and even “Mary Poppins Returns,” which at least is about something.
“Welcome to Marwen” opens Friday. Reviews are embargoed until late tonight, which usually isn’t a good sign. Awards groups have already seen it. But there’s always the chance that Universal is hoping to take the world by surprise with it.