'Marcel the Shell with Shoes On' review: Wholesome and incredibly poignant
Courtesy of A24
If you had told me one of the best movies of 2022 would revolve around a one-inch tall, conch shell with a googly eye and pink shoes, I’d had said you’re crazy. But “Marcel the Shell with Shows On,” from the creative minds of Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer Camp, isn’t an ordinary children’s film. And by that, I mean it’s not manufactured to sell toys or start a franchise (though I wouldn’t be mad if more Marcel adventures are in the pipeline). Instead, “Marcel” presents an incredibly wholesome and unique story about family, friendship and what it’s like to sleep between two slices of bread.
A stop-motion/live action mockumentary crafted with stunning detail about Marcel, an anthropomorphic shell who spends the days rolling around in tennis balls (he calls it a “rover”), walking his pet lint, and using toenails as skis. Camp, who is credited as a writer/producer/director, is the documentarian capturing the daily livelihood of Marcel and is also equal parts responsible for those viral YouTube videos you probably watched in high school with your buddies. “Marcel the Shell” is much bigger in scope than those brief 6-minute shorts (and the children’s book which followed) and that’s not a bad thing. Writer/producer Jenny Slate returns to voice the little guy who is found squatting in a Los Angeles Airbnb with his grandmother, Nana Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini).
Camp becomes fascinated by Marcel and Nana documenting and probing them with questions, though he occasionally gets the camera turned on him. Marcel, being the endlessly inquisitive type, is always asking silly questions and making hilarious statements despite not knowing the world that exists outside of his, well, shell (at one point, when they go to leave, Marcel grabs a hammer nail for protection as if it were a switchblade). Throughout the “documentary” it becomes known Marcel and Nana are but a fraction of their kind as two years prior, their entire community (who make up a variety of different shapes and sizes – one is even a Cheeto puff) were unintentionally stolen after the previous couple who lived in the Airbnb left with them in their suitcases. Lucky for Marcel, Camp creates several viral videos and uses the newfound fame to lead an online charge to find them, eventually grabbing the attention of “60 Minutes,” Nana and Marcel’s favorite program.
There are plenty of endearing moments in “Marcel the Shell” that are funnier than anything those Minions ever put on the screen. Marcel’s realness and commitment to being himself is irresistible and what his movie tells children about being comfortable inside your own skin and staying open minded to exploring new things is an invaluable lesson. Not to mention, Marcel delights with nearly every frame, hogging up the screen with an infectiously bubbly personality filled with innocence and charm. “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” shows no matter how big or small you are, it doesn’t take much to make a difference. You just need to be yourself.
MARCEL THE SHELL WITH HIS SHOES ON is now playing in limited release and will expand nationwide in the next few weeks.