Marcel The Shell With Shoes On (2022)

Director: Dean Fleischer Camp

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Certification: PG

Starring: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer Camp, Isabella Rossellini, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann

Adapting their short-film series into feature-length, director Dean Fleischer Camp and his co-star/co-writer Jenny Slate unite with screenwriter Nick Paley to tell the story of Marcel, a one-inch tall seashell who wears shoes and has a single googly eye. Taking a documentary-style format, struggling filmmaker Dean (Fleischer Camp) moves into an Airbnb while undergoing a separation, only to discover it is inhabited by Marcel (Slate) and his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini).

Once part of a large community of shells, the pair are the sole survivors of a harrowing event which left them needing to find innovative ways to perform tasks on their own. This is shown with how Marcel uses a tennis ball to move around the house, or how Connie employs the help of bugs to grow food. Despite being alone, the pair endeavour to survive and still have a good life.

Taken with the resourcefulness of his new friend, Dean starts filming Marcel and Connie before uploading the documentary to YouTube. Experiencing the wide world through the internet gives Marcel a yearning to find his family, while the documentary sees the shell achieve newfound fame. Yet his efforts to find a community does not bring the desired answers, as all that comes are an audience which offer little help to the figure they piggy-back off for viral fame.

Stop-motion animation is gorgeously utilised to bring alive the miniscule figures within this live-action feature, and they are seamlessly integrated into scenes interacting with humans, a dog, or inside a moving vehicle. It also brings a wonderful expressiveness to the shells, conveying happiness and hurt, as effectively as Slate and Rossellini's exceptional voice performances. Connie's caring and vibrant nature is effectively contrasted with her dementia diagnosis, while Marcel ranges from adorably inquisitive to worrying about experiencing more loss.

The pair worked hard to thrive after losing their community, and Marcel fears that bad fortunes may leave them with even less than before. Meanwhile, Connie is aware of her limited time on Earth and worries for her grandson, wishing to ensure that he embraces life no matter what the future holds. While the heartbreak and worries of life are experienced, the documenting of this shell's child-like observations convey such warmth and humanity to also highlight the beauty which life is capable of. There is also a good deal of charming whimsy, particularly with the lasting image of Marcel playing uncooked spirali pasta like a trombone.

What's phenomenal is the thoughtful way this film approaches difficult subjects, making them accessible to all-ages courtesy of Marcel's innocent point-of-view. This is effectively captured by Disasterpiece's phenomenal score, which conveys the titular shell's adorable innocence alongside exploration and wonder. It makes for a stunning tale about the power of connections, the beauty of the world, and embracing life, all while following the most adorable, shoe-wearing shell.

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now