I have been looing forward to watching Marcel the Shell With Shoes on for some time now. I missed it while it was in its limited run in theaters and I have been waiting patiently for it to arrive on streaming. It finally arrived on Vudu and, although it was not yet available to rent, I decided to add it to my list as a purchased film.
It was worth the wait.
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On in based on a series of shorts that appeared on the internet in 2010. The film is shot as a mockumentary that followed the life of Marcel (Jenny Slate) an anthropomorphic shell that lived with his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini). They lived alone in an old Airbnb that Dean (Dean Fleischer Camp), the documentarian, moved into after breaking up with his wife. Dean discovered Marcel, the talking shell, and decided to start filming him, putting the shorts on the internet.
The film was extremely sweet and filled with life. It included several very adult themes such as being isolated and alone, the effects of aging, and the power of connection as well as being funny and kid friendly.
Jenny Slate’s voice work is powerful and poignant at the same time. Marcel is surprisingly world weary and yet filled with such a zest for life. Marcel may be a shell with shoes on, but he is absolutely dealing with emotions and feelings that any human being can relate to and provides a connection beyond its stop motion animation.
Marcel the Shell With Shoes avoids becoming too melodramatic or wishy-washy, maintaining a tone that can give us both the sweetness of the character and the potential heart-break that comes from life.
Dean Fleischer Camp was the director o this film, as well as the documentarian who befriends Marcel. This was Camp’s feature film debut and there are some wonderful shots, in particular, when Connie was reading some poetry.
You would not expect a film like this to have the emotional balance that it does and to exceed the trappings of a kids movie, and yet it does. The movie might be stretched a little long, but it was an excellent piece of cinema.