Review: ‘Marcel The Shell With Shoes On’

Just As Charming And Funny As The Original Short Film

“My name is Marcel, and I’m partially a shell, as you can see on my body. But I also have shoes and a face. And I like that about myself.” In three short sentences, the titular character in A24’s Marcel the Shell with Shoes On immediately pulls the audience into his world. Its the same as ours, except tiny communities among  shells, pretzels and peanut shells exist. Despite his size, the one eyed Marcel takes up the entire screen with his quirky personality, resourcefulness and heart.

The feature film fuctions very similarly to then married-couple Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate’s series of short films of the same-name that was released over ten years ago. Fleisher-Camp plays a mostly heard version of himself as he occupies the same space as Marcel (voiced by Slate) and asks the shell with an animated mouth questions about his very unique and particular world in different locations around them. The thing that made the original shorts work is that you didn’t quite know why you were laughing. Maybe it was Slate’s high-pitched squeaky rasp that would say oddly specific things that pulled people in. Maybe it was the sweetly depressing nature of Marcel’s lonely world– all those elements are still in the feature length film. 

We meet Marcel as he is naivgating around his home – a very nice sprawling house then used as an airbnb to which Fleisher-Camp is a guest. Despite its vastness, Marcel is resourceful, using a tennis ball to zoom around and honey on his shoes to walk up walls. He doesn’t live completely alone, Marcel’s Nana Connie (Isabella Rossellini) is there tending to bugs in the garden and watching Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes. They both long for their missing family, displaced when half of the previous couple who lived in the house moved away and accidentailly packed them. 

Fans of the original short will be happy to know that many of the shorts’ iconic lines make it into Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Allen, the piece of lint who acts as Marcel’s dog, also shows up. Fleisher-Camp, who also serves as a director and co-writer along with Slate and Nick Paley, keeps the same comedic melancholy tone of the original iteration but this time inserts more of himself into it, playing up his character’s divorce from someone who looks like Slate. 

Fleisher-Camp’s questions prompt Marcel look for answers about his missing family, but also make him cling to his desire to avoid change. It’s a problem that every human being has, do we move forward when we could lose anything. What makes Marcel so great isn’t the quippy one liners or his sardoic turn of phrase or unique way of living. It’s that Fleisher-Camp and Slate reflect the best of our humanity in an adorable one eyed package that makes you laugh and think. At its core, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is a kids movie for adults.

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is in theaters. Watch the trailer below.

'Marcel the Shell with Shoes On'
Cortland Jacoby
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
review-marcel-the-shell-with-shoes-onSweet, sad, and so very good, 'Marcel the Shell with Shoes On' is one of this Summer's best.