Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, 2022.
Directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp.
Starring Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rossellini, Thomas Mann, Rosa Salazar, Lesley Stahl, Nathan Fielder, Andy Richter, Sarah Thyre, Jessi Klein, and Peter Bonerz.
Feature adaptation of the animated short film interviewing a mollusk named Marcel.
Here is something you don’t see every day: A24 for the whole family.
Based on a YouTube series (Dean Fleischer-Camp directs both with Jenny Slate co-writing in addition to providing the voice for the indisputably cute mollusk dubbed Marcel, here joined by more writers including Elizabeth Holm and Nick Paley), Marcel the Shell with Shoes On appears to take the webisode structure, fleshing it out into fully realized feature-length narrative form.
Creators Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate run the gamut of emotions ranging from hysterical laughter, surprisingly poignant thematic moments, and heartbreaking devastation that is also quick to piece the heart back together in a logically crowd-pleasing fashion. Perhaps above all else, it’s refreshing to see stop-motion animation back in the limelight while also gorgeously blended with live-action, hopefully getting younger viewers to broaden their horizons beyond the CGI that regularly bloats up multiplexes.
Having not been a part of this YouTube sensation, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On indeed came with an extra dash of charm for this critic. Voiced by Jenny Slate, he is a one-inch tall, anthropomorphic, speaking shell with one enlarged eyeball and a pair of red shoes that would make Sonic the Hedgehog jealous. He lives with his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini), who has found a way to run a garden with a fork (to give you an idea of how imaginatively detailed these lives are). There were also more shells until an arguing couple got into one more verbal tussle, breaking up for good, triggering a chain of events that left Marcel and Connie separated from their clan.
The above events have resulted in the home turning into an Airbnb (many of the jokes involves fish out of water humor teaching Marcel certain things, except it’s funny here), where the film’s director Dean Fleischer-Camp has taken up residency and makes up for the lack of social life by documenting Marcel, inevitably leading to YouTube fame.
And while the jokes throughout are funny (it’s astonishing how Jenny Slate can pause between gut-busting lines only to deliver another punchline, sometimes doing this up to three times in a single bit, eliciting laughs on all of them), once Marcel the Shell with Shoes On transitions into a story about what makes a positive community without losing its comedic backbone, that’s where the proceedings start to become great.
In typical social media fashion, people do become obsessed with Marcel. But not with finding his family. No, they care more about finding his current home and taking selfies outside for their vapid interests and online popularity boosts. It hurts Marcel so much that there is trepidation when he is offered a chance through his favorite show, 60 Minutes, to do an interview that could bring about new leads to reunite him with his family.
However, this is most definitely not a plot-centric movie; most of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On consists of following his day-to-day routine (complete with the goofy documentary interviews where the subject and filmmaker lovingly rib one another) and the whimsical existence he ekes out with his last remaining family member. It’s about how life changes, sometimes for worse and sometimes for better. Jenny Slate’s voiceover performance is endlessly charming, and I sincerely hope this becomes a franchise for A24.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com