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Release Date: 07/15/22 [Cinemas]

Genre: Animation/Comedy/Family

Studio: A24

"Feature adaptation of the animated short film interviewing a mollusk named Marcel."


Marcel the Shell with Shoes On took the world by storm in 2010 and 2011 when Dean Fleischer-Camp uploaded videos of the small stop-motion animated shell to YouTube. Marcel was created by Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate and the adorable shell gained instant notoriety. Flash forward ten plus years and Marcel has made his way to the big screen with his feature film debut. The premise is simple. Marcel lives with his grandma, whom he lovingly refers to as Nana Connie (Isabella Rossellini). They used to have a large community of shells but after a mysterious event their family disappeared, leaving Marcel and Connie to fend for themselves. One day a documentary filmmaker, Dean (Dean Fleischer-Camp), shows up and begins documenting their lives. The film mirrors real life with Dean posting videos of Marcel online that quickly go viral. Marcel longs to be reunited with his family and they attempt to harness the power of the internet to do it. But as with many viral trends, people use Marcel as entertainment and no one is able to help him. His big break comes when Lesley Stahl reaches out wanting to do a 60 Minutes segment to hopefully help him find his family. 


For those of us who watched Marcel on YouTube, he is still the same loveable guy. His one-liners are reliably hilarious. While explaining what a documentary is he says, “It’s like a movie but nobody has any lines and nobody even knows what it is while they’re making it.” We follow Marcel as he shows us his daily routine. This involves using a hand mixer with a string tied to a nearby tree to shake off the fruit so he has something to eat, using honey to make his shoes sticky so he can climb vertically on the wall, and even crafting a sky lantern and watching it float away. Life is difficult for him because he’s so small but he and Nana Connie have ingenious systems in place to help them survive. Marcel rolls around in a tennis ball to get around quickly and Connie uses a weight attached to a belt to pull up turnips that she’s planted. For fun, Marcel stirs up dust from the couch that lands on the coffee table and turns it into an “ice skating rink.” Although he notes it’s usually reserved for holidays, Marcel does it to try and cheer up Nana Connie. He’s thoughtful that way. 


His ruminations on life are childlike in the best sense and he possesses a perseverance and positivity that is endearing and admirable. You feel for him as he navigates grief and smile with him as he enjoys ice skating on the coffee table, singing to Nana Connie, or simply staring out the window basking in the sunlight. Slate and Fleischer-Camp never let you sit in the sad feelings for too long, interrupting sentimental moments with a joke or a sarcastic comment. But they include Philip Larkin’s poem "The Trees" at one of the pivotal moments in the movie which adds a depth that you might not expect from this type of movie. 


Slate has cemented herself as one of the greatest voice actors working in the industry right now and her work here is outstanding. Likewise the stop-motion animation placed amidst live action is superb. The screenplay written by Slate, Fleischer-Camp, and Nick Paley balances a moving story with insightful commentary and a barrage of funny quips. Everything about the movie works beautifully together. 


What I love most about Marcel is how he captures both the wondrousness of life and the harshness of it with such graceful simplicity – reminding us to embrace change and enjoy the little things in life. Sometimes you have to follow Nana Connie’s advice and “forget about being afraid. Just take the adventure.” 

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