On the 17th February 2023 UK cinemas were finally graced with seeing Dean Fleischer Camp’s 2021 feature film Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. With the character’s first feature film appearance, since the Marcel the Shell with Shoes On short film series which spanned from 2010 – 2014.
The titular character was created by Fleischer Camp, a filmmaker, producer, screenwriter and editor from Henrico County Virginia. Marcel was brought to life by Jenny Slate, who co-wrote and voiced the character, creating the signature small and raspy voice iconic to the films.
The 90 minute film is an easy watch, with a small cast, which keeps the film’s narrative tight and focused. Marcel is in almost every single shot, with the camera often switching between static and handheld as we follow Marcel going about his daily life, etching out an existence within an Airbnb. The other main characters within the film are Dean, played by Fleischer Camp, a documentary filmmaker filming Marcel’s life, who helps Marcel become an internet celebrity, and Marcel’s Grandma Connie, an ageing shell who needs Marcel’s help to get around.
The film heavily focuses around themes of loneliness, existentialism, familial and friendship bonds, with Dean creating viral Youtube videos of Marcel, whom he discovers after sorting through the clutter in his Airbnb. Dean becomes fascinated by Marcel who grows to trust Dean as he helps him become internet famous in hopes of finding a voice so that he may find his lost family, whom he and Connie got separated from in a mysterious tragedy. These events are what really gives this film drive and focus, a plot which we can come back to intertwined with slices of life segments of Marcel going about his daily activities.
The best word to describe this film is ‘cute’ as it is fully carried by Marcel’s adorable personality and demeanour. The characters’ naivety and innocence compared to filmmaker Dean makes for them being an engaging duo, whose differences work to help the other see the world in a different way. Marcel’s presence is heavily elevated by voice actress Jenny Slate’s witty voice work, creating a wholeheartedly kind and endearing character.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On contains a narrative filled with overwhelming positivity and kindheartedness, shown through Marcel’s naivety. It is this lack of world awareness that gives the film its most endearing characteristic. The fact that he contrasts so much from the 21st century world, makes him a breath of fresh air as his innocence is what makes this story so moving. A standout blend of stop-motion animation and live-action that delivers on every front.
Watch the trailer for Marcel the Shell with Shoes on here: