Review: 'Marcel The Shell With Shoes On' a Delight

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday June 24, 2022

'Marcel The Shell With Shoes On'
'Marcel The Shell With Shoes On'  (Source:A24)

While it's more slight than I expected it to be, the feature-length film based on the popular "Marcel the Shell with the Shoes On" short film is a delightful compilation of life's oddities, truths, and conundrums, all told through the eyes of a young mollusk named Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate.)

Directed and co-written by Dean Fleischer-Camp, "Marcel" is a "documentary" about Marcel the shell and his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini), who Dean (playing himself) stumbles upon while renting an Airbnb to get over a recent breakup. (He and Jenny Slate are exes.) While nothing is really mentioned about the fact there is a talking mollusk living life in the house, Dean's interest is in Marcel's curiously blunt way of looking at life and his quest to find his family.

You see, the couple that owns the house used to live there, and so did Marcel's extended family. But when the couple broke up, Marcel's family was hiding in a drawer that got packed and shipped away. Now, Marcel has no idea where they are, and misses them terribly.

So, while Marcel and Dean try to figure out where they ended up, Marcel shows Dean around the house and how he has outfitted the place so he and his grandmother can easily travel and get through the day. All the while he spills his philosophies on life and his simple observations about the world around him.

These are the small pleasures of A24's indie-animated film. There's no big plot driving the story, and even the search for Marcel's family ends up being rather modest. But the film is more interested in how Marcel sees the world and the pointed truths he comes to, whether it be something as inconsequential as talking about the merits of "60 Minutes'" Lesley Stahl, or how the sun hits his shell just right. He says poignant soul-stirring things; when he's asked how long it's been since he's seen his family, he replies, "I couldn't tell you, but the space in my heart gets bigger and louder every day."

The film itself is episodic and does seem like it's padded more than it needs to be, but Marcel is so darn delightful and lovable that you can't help but go along for the ride no matter how long it is.

This is a story about grief and loss, but also about the resilience you receive from paying attention to the life that's happening around you. We all have heartache, and that is both real and important to deal with, but Marcel teaches us we can do it in a way that won't break us.

While younger kids might not totally understand the point of the film, and the sun-dappled stop-motion animation of the shell characters might not be colorful enough for some, this is a terrific movie that adults and their older children can enjoy and appreciate together.

Marcel is a marvel, and someone I wouldn't mind visiting again and again.

"Marcel the Shell with the Shoes On" opens in select theaters June 24th, and Nationwide on July 15th.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.