They don't come any sweeter than "Marcel the Shell With Shoes On," a stop-motion, animated feature-film about a friendly shell, named Marcel, who is trying to be reunited with his family after becoming separated from them.
The movie is based on a short film of the same name, a three-minute short that won Best Animated Short at the 2010 AFI Fest. The feature-length version is brought to us by the same creator/director, Dean Fleischer-Camp, with a script co-wrote by Jenny Slate (Slate also provides the voice of Marcel).
Like anything that's sweet, too much of Marcel can make you sick, and a 90-minute dose comes a bit too close for comfort. Marcel is a seashell with one googly-eye and a pair of sneakers, and the film is presented documentary-style, from a filmmaker (played by Fleischer-Camp) who happens upon the anthropomorphic being while staying at an AirBnB. Marcel's family was swept away - accidentally - by a former tenant, and although Marcel misses his family, he gets by on his positive attitude and his genuine, innocent approach to life.
The only one that was left behind with Marcel is his Nana, Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini), whom he adores and shares admiration for. He also carries along his "pet lint" Alan, a ball of lint that Marcel has tied to a string.
Marcel is wide-eyed (singular) and finds wonder in the mundane. He is a timid, gentle soul, and Slate voices his character like a cute child who perhaps is also channeling Al Franken's Stuart Smalley (you could imagine Marcel saying his popular phrase: I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggone it, people like me!). Surely people will fall in love with Marcel...he's adorable and optimistic, and the only hard-shelled creature you'll want to try to cuddle with.
We learn about his life, his existence, and his obsession with the TV show "60 Minutes." That show, and its host Leslie Stahl, play a bigger role in the film than you may first guess, but it becomes key to Marcel's story.
"Marcel the Shell With Shoes On" goes along at a snail's pace, but you can't help but imagine that it may have worked better as a short. There is barely a tonal shift away from the "peaceful, easy feeling" the movie exudes. But maybe that's the sort of movie we need these days? Sustained optimism? A happy-go-lucky outlook on life? A celebration of the small things in life?
It's hard not to love "Marcel the Shell With Shoes On," for what it is, and you'll leave thankful that you met him, even if our time with him might feel like a bit of a stretch.
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family.
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Starring (voices of): Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rossellini, Lesley Stahl.
Co-Written and Directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp (feature-film directorial debut).
"Marcel the Shell With Shoes On" is in theaters on Friday, July 15th, 2022.
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