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Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (2021) Review

The pocket-sized hero of Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is just as condensed, precious, and out of the ordinary as the story itself.

Pinocchio, an amazing stop-motion animation directed by Guillermo del Toro that uses a well-known fairytale as a springboard for a deep dive into themes of death, fascism, and Catholic guilt, is a strong contender to win the award for best animated feature at both the Baftas on Sunday night and the Oscars next month.

The Baftas will be held on Sunday night, and the Oscars will take place the following month. Yet there is another contender that has also been dazzling audiences with its ability to blend philosophical profundity with stop-motion whimsicality.

It is a gently absurdist mockumentary about the inner life of a lonely shell who spends his days perambulating around an Airbnb, musing upon matters of life, the universe, and everything. The film has been described as having the ability to blend stop-motion whimsicality with philosophical profundity.

Image source: The New York Times

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On Storyline

The stop-motion lead of this wildly original indie film is immediately in the same league as Bambi, Dumbo, and Nemo as great animated “child” protagonists. Marcel (Jenny Slate), a young, inquisitive, and reflective shell, is eager to learn how raspberries taste and is completely unconcerned with the improbability of his own existence.

When asked how he feels about his outlandish appearance (huge single eye, sideways torso, tiny legs), he responds quietly but blusteringly, “I like myself and I have a lot of other great qualities.”

When Marcel and Nana Connie decided to move in together, they rented a human-sized house that had previously been occupied by a squabbling couple. Dean, an aspiring filmmaker (played by Fleischer-Camp himself), moves in and quickly becomes friends with Marcel, the tiny new addition to the household, and eventually asks Marcel’s permission to profile him in a documentary.

Dean learns why Marcel and Nana Connie are the last of their kind as he follows them around with a hidden camera: During the breakup of the previous tenants, one of them hurriedly packed a bag and dumped its entire contents into the sock drawer where Marcel’s family lived.

Marcel’s beloved granny, also a shell and called Nana Connie (sweetly voiced by Isabella Rossellini), is slowly dying in the contemporary suburbs outside of Los Angeles. His immediate shell family is missing, and the only thing that offers Marcel relief from the more weighty issues that surround him is his blossoming relationship with his human film-maker housemate Dean (Dean Fleischer Camp, who is also the director of the film).

The movie is expertly crafted, unexpectedly moving, and has a dash of Tony Hart and Morph energy balanced by Zen ruminations on the interconnectedness of all things. It is a must-see.

Marcel is a cute shell that stands only an inch tall, and he lives with his grandmother Connie and their pet lint, Alan. Together, they have quite the colorful existence. They were once a part of a sprawling community of shells, but now they live alone as the only survivors of a mysterious tragedy that befell their community.

But when a documentary filmmaker finds them amidst the clutter of his Airbnb, the short film he posts online brings Marcel millions of passionate fans, as well as never-before-seen dangers and a new chance at finding his long-lost family.

This hilarious and heartwarming tale about finding connection in the smallest corners features the first appearance on the big screen of a character that fans have come to adore.

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On review

Life goes on in its unrelenting manner, and people go their separate ways… and you go on living, and you have to figure out how to do that while preserving some semblance of grace and curiosity. Jenny Slate, who also acted in the film and was a co-writer on it, recently gave an interview to the Guardian in which she used this clever phrase to explain what can be gained from watching Marcel the Shell With Shoes On.

She provides the voice for the hero of the movie, which is a tiny carapace that is only an inch tall and has scampering feet and one eye. The filmmaker Dean (who is portrayed in the film by director Dean Fleischer Camp) meets the carapace when he moves into temporary accommodation. In the film, Fleischer Camp plays the role of the filmmaker.

Similarly to its diminutive protagonist, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is a rare and delightful find. Image source:

Due to the recent breakup of Dean’s relationship with his longtime partner, he is currently looking for a new place to call home. Regarding Marcel, ever since the breakup of the human couple who used to own this house, he has been cut off from his own family, and the only person he has to keep him company at this time is his grandmother, whose name is Nana Connie.

Connie is a tender force of nature, increasingly afflicted by memory loss, but unyielding in her desire for her grandson to live his life to the fullest despite the fact that Isabella Rossellini gives her a beautiful voice in the role of Connie. Connie is a joy.

Even though Marcel may think of himself as Connie’s primary caregiver, it is abundantly clear that the two of them benefit equally from their relationship. She says to Marcel, “All I ask is for you to give it a shot.” This is a huge and varied world. Let’s forget about being afraid. Don’t use the fact that I exist as an excuse to end your life.

The visually arresting short film (the first in a trilogy) that Fleischer Camp and Slate created in 2010 served as the inspiration for this critically acclaimed and award-winning feature film. The couple tied the knot in 2012 and made the announcement about the full-length version of Marcel in 2014.

This was around the same time that Slate was making waves in Gillian Robespierre’s straightforward romantic comedy Obvious Child. Slate’s animated voice credits range from Bob’s Burgers to The Lego Batman Movie.

Although it’s hard not to see echoes of real life in the film’s various fractured families and broken relationships, all of which are approached with a generosity of spirit that reaps bittersweet rewards, the couple’s faith in the project was so strong that it endured even through their divorce in 2016. Despite this, it’s hard not to see echoes of real life in the film’s various broken families and relationships.

There is a comedic quality that reminded me of Aardman’s sublime Creature Comforts animations. It is a joyous juxtaposition of quotidian, vérité-style dialogue and fancifully inventive visuals that hits the tragicomic sweet spot. While subjects as dark as separation and death may be faced head-on (a reading from Philip Larkin’s The Trees had me in tears), there is a comedic quality that reminded me of Aardman’s sublime Crea.


Whether it be humorous asides about the nature of documentary filmmaking (It’s like a movie but nobody has any lines, and nobody even knows what it is while they’re making it), or a frightening description of the housecleaner at the B&B being the harbinger of the vacuum, there is no shortage of opportunities to laugh.

Even a recklessly extended joke that really shouldn’t work, about bagging an interview on the popular US television show 60 Minutes, somehow manages to land without destroying the film’s delightfully incidental air, which is no small feat. In fact, it manages to land without destroying the film at all.

A whimsical score composed by Disasterpeace (also known as Richard Vreeland), whose work can be heard in the feature films It Follows and Under the Silver Lake, deftly navigates the piece’s shifting tones. The score blends oddball quirkiness with spine-tingling ambience in a way that tugs at your heartstrings.

When Marcel sings “Peaceful Easy Feeling” in Slate’s oddly warbling childlike voice, you will be left wondering where your Eagles greatest hits album has been hiding all this time. It all comes to an end on a peacefully cosmic note, which brought to mind the bizarrely philosophical final speech from “The Incredible Shrinking Man.”

In that speech, the protagonist realizes that even though he is smaller than the smallest, I still mean something. This moment in the story reminded me of that moment. Regarding Marcel, one could undoubtedly assert the same thing.

In Conclusion

Marcel is a walking, talking snail that is only an inch tall. He has one eye and a kind disposition. After debuting in a series of short films available on the internet, he now takes the lead role in this full-length hybrid animation and live-action film (directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp, with Jenny Slate voicing Marcel).

Marcel is a loner, but he makes it through the day with the help of positive thinking and low-tech ingenuity. The story doesn’t bother to explain where the hero came from; instead, it focuses on his day-to-day life.

The movie has its moments where it verges on being overly cutesy, but the subtle humor and the visual brilliance more than make up for it.