Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

2022, PG, 89 min. Directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp. Voices by Jenny Slate, Isabella Rossellini. Starring Dean Fleischer-Camp, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, Lesley Stahl.

REVIEWED By Trace Sauveur, Fri., July 1, 2022

The easiest way to describe the irreverent, sweet, moving, and endlessly funny Marcel the Shell With Shoes On would probably be a recommendation to go back and watch the shorts that it’s expanding upon.

The original trilogy of short films was spawned as a collaboration between director Dean Fleischer-Camp and actress/writer Jenny Slate, set up as mockumentary films that see stop-motion anthropomorphic seashell Marcel being interviewed about his life, interests, hobbies, what have you.

The feature-length adaptation of these innocuously sweet and strange little films is very much in the same vein, with some added dramatic and emotional heft to carry the extended run time. Marcel is still being interviewed for a documentary, but the periphery of his life is given much more substance. The young, inch-high shell with a single eye and a wispy voice lives in a house that has been converted into an Airbnb, watching as rotating occupants come and go while quietly mourning the loss of his real family, who he hasn’t seen in an amount of time he doesn’t even know how to measure. The only person left for him is grandma Connie (Rossellini), and now documentarian Dean (Fleischer-Camp), who Marcel drags into the documentary more than Dean would prefer.

Maybe the most surprising characteristic of Marcel’s world is how grounded in reality it really is. This captures the look and feel of a real, organic environment that this eccentric, tiny, talking seashell occupies, constructed through clever doc-style cinematography combined with beautiful, composited stop-motion that puts him seamlessly within our world. Marcel himself is also a surprisingly emotionally realized character, full of simultaneous curiosity, insight, hope, sadness, and even a little bit of snark. Slate imbues within his voice a quiet sort of simultaneous introversion and amiability, which in turn creates an interesting somberness as we learn how he has adapted to living his life alone. It strikes such a specific balance of tone between quaint oddball cuteness and realistic, subdued melancholy.

That’s what makes Marcel the Shell such a special, singular experience. It fills a movie about a talking seashell with such a realistically sad context and a tender, deep-seated sense of longing and pain that’s near impossible to shake while watching. But anchored at the center is such a warm, tenderhearted personality and worldview that sends you out of the other side with a rejuvenated and healed spirit.

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More Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
The Shell They Sell (He's Swell)
The Shell They Sell (He's Swell)
Viral cuddlebomb Marcel the Shell makes the move to book and TV

Audra Schroeder, Nov. 4, 2011

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Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, Lesley Stahl

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