Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is the latest from A24, in theaters nationwide starting July 15th.
Over a decade ago, the world was introduced to Marcel the Shell via a short film titled ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.’ Marcel, a talking seashell complete with a single googly eye and a pair of small pink shoes (voiced by Jenny Slate), spoke to the camera about the life of a seashell within a large house. Marcel charmed us by happily dragging around his pet (a piece of lint named ‘Alan’), described how he uses a raisin as a bean bag, and showed us how he talks on the phone (by literally standing on top of it and speaking). This summer, Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp reunite to bring Marcel to the big screen.
Marcel, is an one-inch-tall shell. He lives with his grandmother Connie. She is the only resident of their community, after being left behind in a mysterious exodus. When an unexpected brush with fame opens the door to reuniting with his loved ones, Marcel begins a sweeping, emotional journey. He plans to reclaim what he thought was lost and discover the family he never knew he had.
If you’ve seen the previous three Marcel short films, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. While Marcel fits perfectly within the YouTube landscape in the form of a viral video, I worried that the humor might be lost by stretching it throughout a 90-minute runtime. Luckily, that concern was thrown out the window early in the film.
Marcel’s innocence and charm take immediate hold and persist throughout.
Early on, he shows the audience his ‘breadroom’. It’s a bedroom where his bed consists of two stacked pieces of bread – and somehow, the audience manages to both laugh and aww. The story takes on a slightly larger scale than the previous short films, but the majority is still rooted within a single home. Marcel’s grandmother Connie is introduced here (voiced by Isabella Rossellini), and the sincerity of her relationship with Marcel rivals any grandparent relationship we’ve seen on the big screen.
While Fleischer-Camp directs and appears onscreen, he and Slate (who helped write the story along with Nick Paley and Elisabeth Holm) clearly know that Marcel is the heart of the film. There’s rarely a scene that doesn’t showcase Marcel in some way. It gives a cute backstory to the original short films and uses Marcel’s viral popularity as a plot point. There’s also a bit of sadness in Marcel, who has been left alone by his family members and their community. This sadness, combined with Marcel’s sincerity and sweetness, makes it hard not to root for the little anthropomorphic shell.
I give ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ 3.5 out of 5 stars. Adults and children will find something to love here, although some jokes might go over the kids’ heads. With a talking stop-motion seashell, only so much depth can be found. However, it’s still an enjoyable ride that can get a tear or two out of the audience. I dare you not to be charmed by this film.