Photo: ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’
‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ is a complicated film. The film from the outside appears to be a generic movie made for children with a message that is shoved so far down the audience’s throat that they have stomach problems after the show. This is how most “movies made for kids” are, plain and simple. But not ‘Marcel’. While it does not take much digging to find the main message woven throughout the film’s short 90-minute runtime, that message is told with such intimacy and grace that you would be forgiven if you thought the film was a hardcore drama, and not a comedic film centered around a shell named Marcel who wears sneakers.
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‘Marcel’ does things differently than most other movies marketed for kids out there. In this film, the titular Marcel, voiced fantastically by Jenny Slate, loses his shell community and is only left with his old Aunt Connie, who is voiced by the incredible Isabella Rossellini. From there Marcel must not only navigate the loss of his community and the internal struggles that come with that but also the possibility of change coming to his life. This change is the main driver of the plot in the film and is what the message of the film is centered around.
But as mentioned previously this message is neither preached nor metaphorically screamed by the main character. Instead, it is placed in pieces throughout the film and left for the audience to construct once the credits roll. This important message is the main reason why I feel that this film holds up as well as it does. It is not very often that you see a movie that is mainly marketed for children succeed as a genuinely good film. Most kids’ movies are just that, movies, they are not films. While they may be films by definition in practice they are not as they lack the backbone needed to carry the weight real films must carry.
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‘Marcel’ stands apart from its competitors and has that backbone and carries that weight. Thus, as a result, ‘Marcel’s’ messaging carries it to the level of a real film, or a piece of real art.
‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ – A View Inside the Shell and Beyond
Dean Fleischer-Camp, Jenny Slate, and other creative contributors working on the film do a fantastic job of building Marcel’s character and humanizing a small shell with one eye. In Marcel we do not see a shell, we see ourselves and our struggles in this cold world which we live in. Marcel is not the weird creature that his name implies instead he is a fully fleshed-out person with feelings and emotions which are similar to ones we experience every day in our lives.
The stop motion animation in the film is also excellent. With movements that look real and flow smoothly on the screen, Marcel is once again humanized and turned from an alien shell into something closer to a human counterpart. It also does not hurt that the way Marcel moves is simply adorable to viewers but I digress.
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Other Shell-Sized Details
The production design present in the film is something that deserves a long round of applause. Each character in Marcel’s community has a unique look. There are some which are simply other sea shells and then others range all the way to a peanut shell. These are the kinds of small details that make films like ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ special. The design of the film goes even farther than the characters as well. Many great ideas and inventions are made up for the characters to use since they are so small. For example, tennis balls are used as a way to roll around and spoons are used to catapult objects into the desired location. Once again these details enhance the film and bring it up from the level of a typical kids movie to one which has a place among films held with much higher regard. ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ is special and the production design shows it.
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‘Marcel’ is also shot in a very interesting way. The film itself is shot in a documentary-style format which gives rise to many different fun aspects that are present throughout the film. To start none of the dialogue feels forced and the audience is instead placed in this sphere where it seems that they are viewing Marcel in his natural habitat. As a result of the shooting style, Marcel’s character also appears more vulnerable because it seems as if he is exposing himself for the world to see instead of us peering in on his life like in a typical narrative film. Then because of this, the audience feels more empathy towards Marcel and his emotions and the message he carries hits closer to home. All in all, this results in a better overall film and leads to Marcel once again ascending from the low level of most kids’ movies out on the market to a film of a higher prestige and dignity.
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Overall ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ sets out to complete a task and more than exceeds it. While the film itself may be marketed more towards younger children it is no doubt a film that anyone can enjoy. This is mainly due to its simple yet eloquent messaging which is not forced upon the audience and the details present in Marcel’s character in the world around him. All of these aspects join together in unison to create a film that cannot be missed by kids or adults alike. So take the time to go out and give ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ a chance and I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed by what you find.
Make sure to check out A24’s next film ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ and look out for a review from Hollywood Insider following the film’s release
Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp
Writers: Dean Fleischer-Camp, Jenny Slate, Nick Paley, Elisabeth Holm
Cast: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rossellini
Cinematography: Eric Adkins, Bianca Cline
Editor: Dean Fleischer-Camp, Nick Paley
Producers: William Byerley, Philipp Engelhorn, Michael Raisler, George Rush, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Jenny Slate, Nion McEvoy
By Nathaniel Lee
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