Review: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Wholesome, original, and unendingly sweet, Dean Fleischer Camp’s Marcel the Shell with Shoes On provides a good-hearted time for adults and kids to cling to.

Documentary filmmaker Dean (Camp) moves into an Airbnb following the end of his marriage. There, he discovers Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate), a one inch-tall talking shell living with his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini).

Fascinated by Marcel, Dean begins to film Marcel and posting the videos online. When the videos go viral, Marcel hopes the increased attention can lead to the discovery of to the rest of his lost family.

The film’s earnestness is it’s greatest asset. On paper, this film makes no sense, but no one blinks an eye at a walking, talking, communicative shell. The idea is never scoffed at or winked at. Marcel does not become the viral sensation because it is a shell, but because he is a sweet-hearted optimist. Without the commitment to the bit, the film doesn’t work.

There’s an undercurrent of sadness without dwelling on it completely. Despite Marcel having Connie, his life consists mostly of activities by himself. Meanwhile, Connie is showing signs of dementia. This could turn the film on its head, but the sadness is implied and subtle instead of the main emotion. Finding his family is not Marcel’s motivating factor, but it’s played as a nice thing for him to have.

Slate’s childlike rasp suits Marcel to a tee. Slate plays into Marcel’s precociousness but also his naivete and humor. The very concept of a talking shell transcends gender, and the voice never feels out of place for the character. Rossellini is pure warmth and grace as Connie, never raising her voice higher than a light whisper. At the same time, she can be the stern parent Marcel needs and the doting grandmother she wants to be.

Camp plays the background role the film needs of him. He is lightly heard, and barely seen. He knows it’s not about him and he doesn’t try to make it about him. The rest of the human cast are very small or cameos.

The house and how Marcel navigates it is half the fun. He rolls around the floors in a tennis ball and climbs the walls using honey. He shakes fruit from a tree using a mixer and ice skates utilizing dust from a window. It’s just a normal house, but the perspectives make it a whole new world.

Adults and kids can all find something they cling to with Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. With the right tone and an unforgettable main character, enjoy yourself and shed a tear or two.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is available to buy or rent on-demand
Score: 4.0/5.0

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