Updated: Aug 8, 2022
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is likely is the next great comfort film. Beginning as a comedic digital short in 2010, director Dean Fleischer Camp and writer/actress Jenny Slate’s anthropomorphic shell took the world by storm. It’s been quite some time since audiences have last seen Marcel, but it’s made clear from the very first moment he’s back on screen that he hasn’t lost an ounce of his charm. As AirBnB guest Dean decides to capture Marcel’s life via documentary filmmaking, he stumbles upon what makes Marcel so special; Not just as a cute little stop-motion character, but as a fully-fledged soul packed with more emotion, depth, and natural curiosity than many humans. Over the course of 90 minutes, Fleischer Camp and Slate bring us into Marcel’s home, or in reality, the expansive world Marcel lives in.
As Marcel shows his ability to improvise in ingenuous manners ranging from gathering fruit to climbing around the house, he introduces Camp to Nana Connie. Played by a lovely Isabella Rossellini, Marcel’s soft spoken grandmother spends time tending her garden and watching 60 Minutes. The two tune in every Sunday, a tradition that they have kept up even after the fact that the rest of their community of shells has disappeared. After an intense argument between the original dwellers of the AirBnB home, Marcel’s family was accidentally taken away. With no way of knowing how to find them or what happened, Marcel and Nana simply continued moving forward. And with resiliency, a flair for the creative, and a whole lot of energy, the two are doing pretty well for themselves. Yet Marcel clearly yearns for something in particular: not just to survive, but to have a good life.
For Marcel, hope is second nature. He “smiles a lot because it’s worth it”. There is excitement around every corner, with a new day bringing forth a new problem. As challenged as Marcel can sometimes feel, he takes it all with stride, and more importantly, as a challenge to find a new solution. Yet when the opportunity arises to possibly find his long-lost family, Marcel shows some sign of fear for the first time. He’s a shell who has lost so much, and as he balances risk versus reward in his own way, his fear of change bubbles to the forefront. Due to the sage, matter-of-fact advice of a wonderful Rossellini, the film catapults itself into a world full of potential, where endless possibilities are equally exciting and terrifying. As Marcel’s story spreads and he becomes introduced to the confusing world of the Internet, the film truly sets itself up for success. In a handful of cheeky remarks regarding his stans, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On proves itself to be devoid of any judgement. He is a model individual, and quite frankly, every audience member introduced to Marcel should strive to be a bit more like him. Leave it to a film about a talking shell with shoes on to be one of the most deeply humanistic films to arrive all year.
It’s frankly impossible to keep your eyes off Marcel. A bit clumsy, and endlessly adorable, everything he says and does will leave a smile in his wake, which practically means audiences will have some jaw pain from non-stop grinning. He simply cannot stand still, even if only for 30 seconds. It’s deeply endearing, and when he follows up his wonderful wisdom and earnest ruminations on life with natural humor, it never removes any weight from the subject at hand. It’s a delicate attempt, but the film pulls it off seamlessly. In the rare chances you are able to take your eyes off Marcel, it’s impossible to not have a deep admiration for the level of attention brought to the production design. Not only does this house feel like a clear Air BnB home, but it is also richly decorated with Marcel’s own inventions in a way that feels organic and incredibly well thought-out down to each matchstick and thumbtack. If anything is made apparent over the course of 90 minutes, it’s that every member of the cast and crew has a deep adoration for this adorable shell.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is a film that feels designed to be timeless. The reason being is that its essential theme will always remain prevalent. It’s a film designed almost exclusively to provide joy to its audience. It’s a reminder that change, no matter how terrifying it may seem, is a natural part of life; In fact, it should be welcomed with open arms. If even one person is positively affected by Marcel’s outlook on life, then this film will have successfully done its job. And it’s of my humble opinion that the effects this film will have on its audience will reach far beyond what Marcel could ever possibly imagine. Marcel the Shell just might be exactly who this world needs in this very moment, and for every moment to come. It’s a reminder to not be afraid, and live each day full of wonder.
A24 will be releasing Marcel The Shell With Shoes On in theaters on June 24th.