Time: 100 Minutes
Jenny Slate as Marcel (voice)
Dean Fleischer Camp as Dean
Isabella Rossellini as Nana Connie (voice)
Rosa Salazar as Larissa Geller
Thomas Mann as Mark Booth
Lesley Stahl as herself
Director: Dean Fleischer Camp
Marcel, a 1-inch-tall shell, lives with his grandmother, Connie, the only residents of their town after their neighbors’ sudden, mysterious disappearance. When discovered by a guest amongst the clutter of his Airbnb, the short film he posts online brings Marcel millions of passionate fans and a new hope of reuniting with his long-lost family.
For the past months I had been hearing about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. It seemed to be some animated movie which ended up being one of the most beloved movies of 2022. I never saw the trailer, but from my brief glimpses of it, I admit I was somewhat confused by the love. I wasn’t sure that I would get into it, but after it was nominated for best animated film, I thought I should at least check it out. I was pleasantly surprised.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On actually originated as a series of shorts which I haven’t watched myself, but after watching the film, I am interested in checking them out. The movie is a mockumentary about the protagonist Marcel, a living shell, and his grandmother. Things develop over the course of the film, but there isn’t a whole lot driving the plot, and its mostly just watching Marcel’s life. You’re sort of just along with the ride, and if you’re not on board in the first 30 minutes, then you’ll probably find the rest of the movie to be a bit of a drag. On the whole. I’d say that it was a pleasant watch. It’s charming, funny and witty, and quite optimistic on life. It goes for something somewhat profound and touching without feeling disingenuous. It’s not all cheery, there are some melancholic and bittersweet moments, and there are some unexpected tonal shifts. While these shifts can be sudden, there’s a pretty good balance throughout. While Marcel might be appropriate for kids, it does seem like adults would get more out of it than children, mainly with some of the mature themes and the dry humour. Marcel is about 90 minutes long and that was the right runtime, it didn’t feel like it overstayed its welcome.
There is a very small number of characters here, but it fits the contained nature of the film. The living shell protagonist Marcel is voiced by Jenny Slate and her voice helped bring this character to life; he’s likable and carries the movie well. There’s also his grandmother voiced by Isabella Rossellini, and director Dean Fleischer-Camp even plays one of the main characters too, playing the director of the documentary (also named Dean). I liked his dynamic with Marcel, considering he’s in much of the movie (albeit mostly off camera).
Dean Fleischer-Camp directs this well. Marcel is partly live action and partly animated, with everything appearing to be real except for the stop motion shell characters. The stop motion animation especially shines in the live action shots, and it feels real. It’s also deliberately filmed as a mockumentary/faux documentary, and it does appropriately resemble a real documentary, from the zooms, camera movements, audio and even some of the way dialogue is delivered. Finally, its accompanied by a nice and light score from Disasterpeace.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a funny, witty and heartfelt mockumentary with good stop motion animation. If you heard about how everybody loved the movie, I’d recommend keeping your expectations in check. It is a light and relaxed movie with very little drive, but I liked it for that.