Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is based on a YouTube short performed by Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate. At the time the short was made, these two were a couple. They’re not together anymore, but the short went so viral that they made it into a major motion picture that would be acquired by A24. It still retains the charm and cuteness of the shorts, though.
Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) is a 1-inch tall shell. He lives with his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini). They have a pet lint named Alan. After the previous owner of their house moves away, Dean rents it out as an Airbnb. He notices Marcel in the house and decides to do a documentary on him and his grandmother. The film depicts this film, if you will. It’s a mockumentary and a stop motion animated film combined into one.
What at first glance would seem like a cute little adorable character turned into a story with some heft. It could have been a little throwaway film, but it’s one of the best films of the year so far. Without getting into spoilers, Marcel’s life is more than meets the eye. When the previous owners of the house he lives in moved, that changed everything for him and his grandmother. This main plot point is the crux of the story. It worked perfectly and makes this film worth seeing.
The little things in this film are also why this film is worth seeing as well. Marcel’s ingenuity, determination, and love of his family are traits that he possesses that any shell or human being would want to emulate. He is a very nice little shell anybody who watches the film will fall in love with. You just can’t help it. Dean’s documentary makes a huge change in his life, though. It brings attention to him and his cause, but at what cost?
There are a lot of cameos in the film from notable tv personalities and celebrities. The two previous owners of the house who moved away were played by Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and Dying Girl) and Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel). These two tend to argue a lot, and that’s why they moved away and separated. This plot point was interesting because of how it caused everything in the film to happen. Without it, there wouldn’t have been a film about Marcel and his grandmother. This was pretty interesting to me.
All the little idiosyncrasies this film has are pretty cool. The voiceover work by Slate and Rossellini is fantastic. The stop motion animation is terrific. The combination of a mockumentary and an animated film is pretty awesome. The plot and how the story unfolded were very interesting to me. I wouldn’t say it’s a contrivance, but it sure worked out nicely for the entire story to make sense and move forward throughout the film. The bottom line, though, is that this is a cute little adorable film that doesn’t make any mistakes. It’s just good fun for the whole family.
4 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media