“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is directed by Dean Fleischer Camp, and this is his feature-length debut. This film stars Jenny Slate (Parks and Recreation, Bob’s Burgers), Rosa Salazar (Parenthood, Alita: Battle Angel), Thomas Mann (Kong: Skull Island, Halloween Kills), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Crime of the Century), Dean Fleischer Camp, and Lesley Stahl (60 Minutes). The film is based on a short and book series of the same name. In this feature-length take on a preestablished character, the story centers around Marcel, who spends his days with his grandmother, Connie. Throughout the film Marcel is interviewed as he unveils everything about being an anthropomorphic shell in a big house.
I have seen the trailer for “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” during my couple ventures to see “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” After all, it only makes sense as both films are from A24. I know a bit about A24 as a distributor. They have marvelous originals like “Eighth Grade,” some wonderful adaptations like “Room,” and even when a film from them is bad, they still have my respect. Because I always get the sense that an A24 film is typically bad in a way that makes me think, “Maybe that was not for me.” This is especially true with a movie like “Midsommar.” I appreciated “Midsommar” from a visual standpoint, but felt genuinely annoyed whenever it attempted anything along the lines of horror.
“Marcel the Shell” is a complete drift from “Midsommar.” There were families at my screening for crying out loud. If I were given the option to pick out a movie without having seen it, kind of in the sense that I am doing a blind buy, and those were my options, I’d lean towards “Midsommar.” On the surface, it would seem like my kind of movie. I was sold on “Marcel the Shell” when seeing the trailer, but between Ari Aster’s name being attached in addition to the concept, “Midsommar” would have sold me harder.
Now that I have seen both movies, I can confirm that both tell oddball, offbeat stories. “Marcel the Shell” personally tells its story to a greater ability.
Between “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Marcel the Shell,” A24 is having a heck of a year, and I hope they continue to flourish.
“Marcel the Shell” has origins that go back some years ago. While Jenny Slate may also be known for her work on mainstream concepts like “Parks and Recreation,” she has dedicated her time, alongside other people, to creating “Marcel the Shell.” If her passion for the property has not been erased all these years later, Slate excels in revealing such a notion, because she gives it her all to deliver possibly the cutest voicework I have heard since maybe Young Dory in “Finding Dory.”
Although I cannot give Slate’s voice all the credit, because part of what makes “Marcel the Shell” so clever and palpable is how child-like the character is written. I do not mean immature. This movie has the maturity of a great Pixar story if you ask me. However, some of the lines in this film, not to mention the overall vibes, very much felt like watching a child grow up. I do not have kids, so this may not be the best analogy, but as someone who was a kid and as someone who knows parents, I imagine this is a good comparison.
One thing I remember from my childhood, either through growing up or seeing my sister grow up, is how often children mix up their words to say something that sounds similar to what they are trying to say. There is a great line in the film given by Marcel. He gives the famous quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” which traces back to the famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky. But after acing this quote, Marcel is taking all the time in the world to come up with a ton of similar sounding names, but none of them are Wayne Gretzky.
The closest he comes to being right is Whale Jetski. …This is the most adorable movie ever created.
Not only is Whale Jetski a cute-sounding name, but it goes to show how hilarious the movie is. This film is presented in a mockumentary style, which was never my thing. While a lot of my friends tend to enjoy “The Office,” and as much as I think some of the people behind the show are talented, the show’s mockumentary format never sat well with me. That is not the case with “Marcel the Shell,” as the mockumentary format not only lends to some unique concepts, neat editing tricks, and kneeslap-worthy jokes, but some occasional great fourth wall breaks, if you can call them that, from the character of Dean. His main purpose is to videograph the goings on of Marcel, which fits into the mockumentary aspect of the film. After all, it is revealed that he is filming a documentary, which Marcel and his shell community happen to be in on.
“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” proves that the creative floodgates have a wider opening than some might think. In a world where we are inundated with sequels, reboots, comic book movies, or flashy action adventures, we still have a desire for telling and seeing stories like this. “Marcel the Shell” has the simplicity of a show like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and the creativity of a movie like “Toy Story.” I have truly never seen anything like “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” It is not the first story with the character, but it feels new to me.
For a movie that truly is small, much like its titular character, it packs such a raw punch when delivering emotion at times. I already talked about the humor, but I can guarantee you that this movie will make New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick smile. Maybe he’ll shed a tear, who knows? I am not saying that everyone will walk out of this movie with a tear out of their eye, happy or sad. But I am saying that if you do not walk out of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” with a smile, I would argue that you hate all things awesome. Things like swimming pools, or French fries, or redwood trees, or space. How the hell can one hate SPACE?!
There is not much I find wrong with “Marcel the Shell.” I do think I became more invested in the shell community as opposed to the humans they expose through flashbacks, which is not a terrible thing, because the movie knows what it is about. Other than that, I think “Marcel the Shell” is one of the best films of the year, and if you miss it, then you are skipping possibly one of the most adorable films in cinematic history. I mean it.
In the end, “Marcel the Shell” lacks the grand scale many movies tend to have nowadays, but that is also what makes it a unique and entertaining production. This is a movie about a shell who spends his days with his grandma and happens to bond over things like “60 Minutes.” Yes, THAT “60 Minutes.” The one on CBS every Sunday. It sounds weird. And in ways, it is. But that is also why you should give it a chance. This is great for adults, this is great for kids, therefore it is great for everybody. I guarantee that you will grin at least once by the time those end credits show up. If you don’t, then color me shocked. I am going to give “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” a 9/10.
“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! I want to apologize for not getting this out earlier. I have been somewhat busy recently and I am happy to announce that I am likely going to be taking on more movie-related writing outside of Scene Before. Those of you who have been here since the start would know that Scene Before, AKA Flicknerd.com, is independently operated by me, Jack Drees. But if all aligns properly, I will be writing for a particular outlet that some of you might know. I am not going to say which one as I am not officially onboard, but if I have more information, I will share it with you.
That said, if you like this review, be on the lookout for more coming soon! This week I will be sharing my thoughts on “Nope,” the new Jordan Peele film where a brother-sister duo confront a strange event around their horse ranch. Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on “DC League of Super Pets,” the new animated superhero film that focuses on Superman’s dog, Krypto, and a set of other superpowered animals. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could make a documentary on something, what it be about, and why? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!