Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate created a YouTube sensation sort of by accident when “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” blew up back in 2010. A story about an one-inch-tall anthropomorphic seashell simply going through life with childlike innocence but laced with outside awareness was such an odd sight to behold; I had to give it a chance.
I love it when movies like this make me want to view another perspective on life from someone else; this is another cute, endearing splice of life to add to the collection.
As overtly experimental as A24 is, they have become a master of balancing context, character and style with sincerity regardless of genre; Dean Fleischer-Camp appeared to be the right director within that ballpark to integrate that same display of balanced childlike innocence and maturity into a project that radiates an immediate connection between the central character and the audience. The coyness that radiates from each scene actually improves the mockumentary format of what Marcel thrived at originally while carrying genuine weight
Cinematography and editing go hand-in-hand, keeping the rough cut footage that comprised of the original short films, production design depicts his interpretation of the world as simultaneously itty-bitty and comparatively enormous, the blend of fluid live-action with the beautiful stop-motion animation is astonishing in its craftsmanship, the drama narrowly avoids feeling cloying, sappy or manipulative especially, characterization thrives on enrapturing delight further buoyed by a surprisingly whimsical soundtrack and score and major shoutout to Jenny Slate and the rest of the cast for this: it took no time for their bubbly, soulful vocal performances to enlighten me.
With all this negativity that poisons the world, I like how this story offers more proof, yet again, that social media and the internet can be used for good but also encourages us to balance the sad and painful context in life with sweetness and optimism. Confront all stages in life and embrace them with an open heart and mind; the way Dean goes about this is both rather sly and graceful when it comes to accepting and evolving around change. Sometimes you have to improvise your way around no matter what occurs while also teaching the importance of individual strength and the power of community, putting both on full display.
If I had to pick out one flaw, it’d be the final stretch of the movie where the pacing starts to slow down even more than usual. There were, at least, three separate points where the film could’ve ended and yet it kept on going and it kept taking me out of the experience; that last bit actually started to annoy me. But at a tight 90 minutes, Marcel luckily doesn't overstay his welcome.
Building upon its predecessors with intermittently productive effect, this film takes such a simple and silly idea and exceeds in sharing a heartfelt, wholesome story with it as well as an profound, empowering message for all: accept change and be open.