jazzperbernbaum’s review published on Letterboxd:
A very, very weird major-studio curio. A bizarre mash-up of an Oscar®-bait PTSD drama & bootleg Toy Story spin-off.
This is a noble effort. It's easy to see what Zemeckis saw in the original documentary, Marwencol. But his dramatic interpretation feels misguided and self-satisfied.
In the hands of a more nuanced filmmaker, this could have been pretty special. The meta-narrative shifts are bold and inventive, but there are two completely different tones here. The real world is authentic and melancholy. The CGI world is loud, colorful and childish. There's even a final showdown with a witch, Nazi zombies and the Back to the Future DeLorean that wouldn't feel out of place in a Dreamworks animated feature. Perhaps a more careful consideration of color theory would help nuance the transition between the two. Or taking cues from the real-life Marwen's own DIY textures, instead of favoring glossy motion-capture.
In the end, it proclaims itself as a feminist film -- the climactic line is a CGI doll Steve Carrell yelling "Women are to the saviors of the world!". But Hogancamp's perception of woman is both misguided and occasionally cringe-worthy. The female characters' empathy keeps him alive, but he views them as subjects in his own story. He objectifies them, quite literally, and casts them as he wants in his own narrative.
This is only a knock on Zemeckis' irresponsible portrayal, not the real-life Hogancamp. Hogancamp's trauma is very real. The road to recovery is different for everybody, and there is is clearly a lot of self-hatred to be wrestled with. Shoot, the queer angle is barely unpacked! For what it's worth, Carrell does his best & his quite good at anchoring the whole thing. You truly feel for Hogancamp despite his flaws.
But, if Marwen is Zemeckis using Hogancamp's tale to make a self-reflexive statement on his own career, it's very miscalculated. He also cast his wife as the main character's favorite a porn star, so there's that.