The Reel Review
This dramedy, based on the popular 2010 YouTube character created by Jenny Slate and ex-husband/director Dean Fleischer-Camp, is a feature length, stop-motion animation mockumentary about a tiny anthropomorphic shell with a googly eye and shoes, who opens up his tiny world to the filmmaker renting the Airbnb where he lives to discuss his previously lost family and extended community.
With Slate again voicing Marcel and a terrific Isabella Rossellini as his grandmother, this refreshingly original movie is about grief, and how we must take time to enjoy the little things in life and even embrace sorrow to better appreciate joy. It has a child-like innocence and perspective as Fleischer-Camp, who also appears in the film as the filmmaker, gets lots of mileage out of the cute glimpses into Marcel’s miniature life with his grandma. Marcel has a pet piece of lint, sleeps on a slice of bread, uses a tennis ball to move around the house and loves to watch 60 Minutes with his grandma. “Lesley Stahl blows cases wide open,” Marcel proclaims matter-of-factly.
Slowly, the film becomes less about the cute mollusk, and more about us, humanity, and our need to connect with one another. Its endearing non-sequiturs, motivational one-liners and even an appearance by Stahl to help find Marcel’s family are sweet for sure, but a bit cloyingly so. While creative, the film drags at times and the wafer-thin premise doesn’t quite connect the way the duo’s wildly popular prior short YouTube videos do. Still, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a feel-good tear-jerker for anyone who has ever felt beaten down by life, which pretty much means all of us.
• Jenny Slate says the seven years of working with her now ex-husband Dean Fleischer-Camp on this film (even during their divorce in 2016) was therapeutic, and never stressful or difficult: “This is both of our favorite piece of work, I think, that we do, and are doing, and have done.”
• Each day’s filming resulted in 5-10 seconds of actual film time.
• Dean Fleischer-Camp says Marcel the Shell with Shoes On will be eligible to be considered for Best Animated Feature at the 2023 Academy Awards.