Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is a stop-motion animation/mockumentary film directed and co-written by Dean Fleischer-Camp, based on the series of short films he created for YouTube. Fleischer-Camp plays a documentary maker named Dean who discovers a surprising secret in his AirBNB: a one-inch anthropomorphic shell called Marcel (Jenny Slate), who sports a pair of spiffy pink sneakers. Marcel and his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini) have adapted to their surroundings after the previous couple departed, taking their community of shells in the process. As Dean constructs his documentary, he also starts to help Marcel try and find where his community is.
Though A24 is no stranger to genre films, the past two years have seen some absolute gems. From The Green Knight to The Tragedy Of Macbeth and its current theatrical hit Everything Everywhere All At Once, the studio is turning out some of its most interesting films to date. Even though animation’s a field that A24 has barely dabbled in—the Hazbin Hotel series was its first foray into the medium—Marcel is a film that not only stands shoulder to shoulder with its live-action predecessors but also shares their trademark element of exploring the human condition.
A large part of that is due to the performance of Slate. She plays Marcel as a curious little fellow who manages to navigate the world around him in surprising ways. He uses a hollowed-out tennis ball as a mode of transportation. He rigs an electric mixer to shake the fruit loose from a tree. He even makes a trumpet out of a piece of pasta! But he also struggles with loneliness and looking after Connie as she grows older. Slate loads most of Marcel’s dialogue with layers of emotion, which will hit the audience when they least expect it. This isn’t surprising, given that Slate serves as a co-writer/producer on the film and came up with the story for the shorts it inspired; she has an attachment to this character, and it shows in her work.
That doesn’t mean the other creator behind the film is slacking off. Fleischer-Camp helms the feature-length version of Marcel with the same down-to-earth ethos that he did for the short films. Most of the film is shot low to the ground so we can see what Marcel’s up to. This is where the stop-motion part of the film kicks in, as Marcel and Connie’s movements feel extremely lifelike. Even a trio of spiders who Connie befriends look and move like real spiders! Only a few shots give off the glossiness that comes with an expanded length and a bigger budget, but that only shows off the respective talents of cinematographers Eric Adkins and Bianca Cline.
Fleischer-Camp also has a leading role in the film, which could have easily tipped into smarminess but didn’t due to his grounded performance. Throughout the film, Marcel and Dean learn more about each other; it turns out that, much like his subject, the filmmaker is suffering from his own form of loneliness. So naturally, they form a bond of sorts, with Dean teaching Marcel the ins and outs of the modern world. Not only does this lead to some of the funniest parts of the film (the sight of Marcel hopping up and down on an iPhone is absolutely adorable), but it also lets the film show off the connections we make and how strong those connections can be. It’s thanks to their friendship with Dean that Marcel starts to learn more about his family, and vice versa, as Dean learns how to start living again.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is a lovely film that expertly blends stop-motion animation with real life and explores the connections we forge with others, whether friends or family. Not only is this a film that A24 fans will enjoy, but it’s also the first A24 film I can recommend for families. In fact, I recommend everyone sees it with their families, no matter the age—I promise there’s something in this film to connect to.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On premieres in theaters nationwide on June 24, 2022.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is a lovely film that expertly blends stop-motion animation with real life and explores the connections we forge with others, whether friends or family.