When Marcel was introduced to the world in 2010, the shell with shoes (voiced by Jenny Slate) began his first video by adorably missing his own name, then stating, “I like myself and I have a lot of other great qualities too.” It’s the perfect introduction to this little shell, a bit awkward, confident in itself, and with a whole world around it confusing, exciting and full of opportunities. After a series of short films and books, Marcel lives his greatest adventure to date with Marcel the shod shellone of the most valuable, inventive and downright charming films of the year.
While Marcel’s previous stories focused on wandering sightings of the seashell on his daily life, Marcel the shod shell dives into Marcel’s family, what it’s like to live as a shell, and Marcel’s relationship with his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabelle Rossellini). A documentary filmmaker (played by the director/co-screenwriter/co-Marcel-creator Dean Fleischer Camp) moves into an Airbnb and meets Marcel, who tells him how he lost his family to the previous owners (played by Rosa Salazar and Thomas Mann) fought and left the house. With Dean’s help, Marcel goes on a mission to try to find his long-lost family.
Written by Camp, Slate and Nick Paley, Marcel the shod shell makes the original Marcel shorts a part of history. With his new popularity on the Internet, Marcel’s story is known to fans, who can become an obstacle and a help. But the meta-nature of this story also allows marcel to explore stardom, the surprise success of the internet’s love for this little shell, and make these past stories part of the bigger marcel narrative.
But even if Marcel the shod shell gives his title shell more purpose and narrative than we’ve seen in the past, Camp, Slate and Paley know audiences won’t mind spending a lot of time with Marcel embracing his life. Marcel the shod shell is a relatively quiet film, and yet Marcel’s observations are often hilarious and inherently sweet coming from that shell, such as Marcel revealing he sleeps at night on two slices of bread he calls his “bread room”, or when Marcel loses his mind at the idea of people signing letters with “peace”.
Considering that Marcel has mostly existed in roughly three-minute bursts on the internet for over a decade, it’s impressive how well this extended version of this character works, without overstaying his welcome, and without this idea aging. never. Marcel’s constant exploration of the world around him and the joy with which he looks at the world is contagious, and it’s almost impossible to leave the theater without a smile on your face, after spending time with one of the characters in most endearing films of recent years.
Still Marcel the shod shellThe extremely cute appearance of actually allows this film to tackle some surprisingly difficult subjects. In addition to making Marcel’s internet popularity part of the actual narrative here, marcel also explores heartbreak and the end of a relationship through Camp. The writer-director and Slate had been married for several years, and in the film, Camp moved into this Airbnb after a recent long-term relationship ended, with Marcel trying to help Camp move on. It’s kind of amazing that this duo makes it a part of their story, but that grief works well alongside Marcel’s story of losing his family and how they both have to deal with their trauma.
Marcel the shell, among its alluring exterior, is largely about loss, and how loss isn’t just the end of something, but opens up the possibility of an exciting new beginning. Marcel is largely concerned about the last member of his family, Connie, who moves a little slower in her old age and begins to have problems with memory loss. As Marcel puts it beautifully when speaking of Connie, she “lost a small piece of a big puzzle”. The relationship between Marcel and Connie is wonderful and touching, enhanced by the excellent vocal performances of Slate and Rossellini. The bond between these two, and the way they try to protect each other, even if it holds back or hurts each other, and the self-sacrifice that can come from love, is another masterful handling of a difficult subject that is managed with great care and compassion.
Marcel the shod shell, like its main character, is much more than meets the eye. From the outside, it looks adorable and delightful – which it is – but inside there’s a whole lot going on, as life’s hardships and tragedies are seen through the eyes of a seashell one inch high. Camp and Slate are able to expand Marcel’s story in a way that doesn’t expand that concept, but rather expands the possibilities of Marcel’s grand world and shows us our world from an entirely new perspective. Marcel the shod shell is a movie with huge ambitions and an even bigger heart.
Marcel the shod shell hits theaters on June 24.