Feature adaptation of the animated short film interviewing a mollusk named Marcel.
Based on a series of shorts, ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ is a movie about a tiny talking shell who is discovered by a documentary filmmaker when he moves into an AirBnB. The shell, called Marcel and voiced by Jenny Slate, lives in the house with his grandmother (Isabella Rossellini) and manages to survive through resourcefulness and sheer optimism. There’s no doubting that this is one of the most deliberately whimsical movies I’ve seen in some time (I mean, even the title screams ‘this will be full of whimsy’), and I’d argue that it is borderline to a fault, but there is a sweetness and poignancy that underpins the narrative that it’s hard not to warm to.
The documentary filmmaker in the movie is Dean (i.e. Dean Fleischer Camp, the film’s director and co-writer) and he starts to film Marcel’s daily activities, finding interest in how he goes about his daily life. Through this, we learn about Marcel’s quirky outlook on life, and more importantly about his family, who moved out when the previous owners left leaving only Marcel and Connie (his grandmother). That setup leads itself to some genuine pathos, as we switch between some off the wall humour through Marcel’s observations and then relatable sadness at him being separated from his family. The observations deliver most of the humour, the kind of surreal humour only made possible when you make a strange little movie about a talking shell (one bit regarding Connie’s accent is brilliant), although I must say I found the extended trailer probably funnier than the movie as a whole was.
The blend of animation and live action is seamless and I’m pleased it’s been recognised as an ‘animated’ film by most awards bodies, who often have stricter definitions of what constitutes the art form. It is testament to the filmmakers and how far technology has came that Marcel and Connie’s insertion into ‘our’ world works as well as it does. Jenny Slate is one of the best voice actors around and she imbues Marcel with a kind of innocent naivety that really makes you feel for him, and really this is just an incredibly sweet, small stakes movie, albeit one where the quirk factor may just be a little too much for some people.
Directed By: Dean Fleischer Camp
Starring: Jenny Slate, Isabella Rossellini, Dean Fleischer Camp, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann and Lesley Stahl