Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021)

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Director: Dean Fleischer Camp
Writer: Dean Fleischer Camp, Jenny Slate, Nick Paley
Cast: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer Camp, Isabella Rossellini, Lesley Stahl, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, Andy Richter, Nathan Fielder, Conan O’Brien
Seen on: 11.2.2023

Marcel (Jenny Slate) lives in a house with his grandma Connie (Isabella Rossellini). There used to be many shells like them there, a large extended family. But everbody but the two of them went missing, and now the house is rented to Dean (Dean Fleischer Camp), a documentary filmmaker in a bit of a life crisis. Dean takes an interest in Marcel and films him and his life. Pretty soon, the clips go viral. They hope to use their new fame to find the other shells. But that might be easier said than done.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a sweet film that is just a joy to watch. With beautiful animation, creative characters and just so many ideas wrapped around its very emotional heart, it really is something special.

The film poster showing Marcel, a shell with one eye and orange sneakers, hanging in a parachute made from a tootsie roll wrapper.

I think we are entering a new era of film that turns away from the cynicism that was so en vogue for a while. Or maybe I’m just so tired of cynical films that I don’t watch them anymore and it just feels that way. Either way, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a completely earnest film, one that takes the innocence of its main character seriously without mistaking innocence with lack of depth. (Slate nails the voice work.)

Because Marcel definitely feels deeply. There is joy and love, but also grief and pain. And we can’t help but feel along with him. I shed more than one tear, but I laughed even more. The warmth of the character shapes not only his relationship with Dean, but the film in general.

Marcel crying a big tear.

Maybe even more marvelous than Marcel’s big heart is the character design. Not only with Marcel and Connie, but when we get to see more of the many creatures that live(d) with the shells, there is just no seeming end to the creativity that went into designing all of them. Plus, the many little details of how they live their life, their rooms, their tools… there were just so many delightful details. And the animation was so fluid, so unnoticeable, especially when combined with the live-action footage, it just shows such craftspersonship and love.

It makes the film in its entirety a wonderful experience, one that warms you down to the bones and will keep you warm for a while afterwards yet.

Marcel on a stool next to Dean (Dean Fleischer Camp) who smiles at him.

Summarizing: loved it.

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