Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp
starring Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer, and Isabella Rossellini
It’s always sad when you get separated from your family: no one to talk to, keep company with, or help when you need a… whatever snails have for hands. In Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) was left behind with his Aunt Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) when the previous humans decamped for a new house. Their new human roomie Dean (Dean Fleischer-Camp) discovers this loquacious gastropod. Conveniently, Dean makes films and begins to document Marcel’s life and dreams. Marcel starts shy but opens up and shows his clever world of handmade machines, handy conveniences, and a Robinson Crusoe lifestyle. When Marcel asks Dave if they can go look for other shells, they get in his car and drive around the Bay Area in a horrifying montage of modern-day chaos. Marcel barely survives. But through the magic of script writing, Diane Sawyer of 60 Minutes proposes putting Marcel’s story on the TV screens of America. Again, agony. But Aunt Connie convinces Marcel to go on the air, and soon a film crew arrives to shoot the interview. It’s bright lights, chaos, and exposure. But best of all, Marcel reconnects with his old friends and finds a safe and happy place.
In a multiplex filled with explosions, spaceships, and rubber faced monsters, this film is a calm island of joyful surrealism. The animation is flawless, and I completely believe Marcel is real. The emotions connected, and when Marcel wept, so did I. How, exactly, the animation is done eludes me. The motions were smooth and lifelike. Friendly puppies were Marcel’s existential threat, while beetles provided the muscle, and spiders were just like the neighbors next door. While this isn’t really a child’s movie, I suspect most kids will enjoy it, but not quite as much as us older, more cynical film lovers. I’m not sure how long this will stay on release, but if you miss it on the big screen, seek it out on the small screen. It’s enchanting, and so few movies can claim that today.