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Marcel the Shell with Shoes On ★★★★



Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp

Cast: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rossellini

Release Date: February 17th 2023

Hot on the heels of the film’s Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, Marcel the Shell is finally getting its long-awaited release in UK and Irish cinemas – and this heartwarming treat is definitely well worth the wait. Based on the 2010 viral series of short lo-fi YouTube videos by filmmaker Dean Fleischer Camp and actor and comedian Jenny Slate, the feature-length mockumentary further explores the big wide world through Marcel’s eyes, with a whimsy and ever-optimistic viewpoint full of childlike wonder.

Directed by Fleischer-Camp, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On follows the adorable googly-eyed, one-inch-tall talking shell (Jenny Slate) and his grandmother, Nana Connie (Isabella Rossellini), as filmmaker Dean (Fleischer-Camp), moves into the Airbnb they reside in. After discovering the sentient shells and how they resourcefully navigate their daily activities, Dean begins filming their interactions and uploads the footage to YouTube – and the pair quickly become viral sensations. Dean hopes to utilise their newfound fame to help track down and reunite the duo with their long-lost shell family and wider community.

It’s not often that a film about a googly-eyed, anthropomorphic object comes along and unexpectedly wins you over with its big heart and charming adventure – while simultaneously leaving you reaching for the tissues – but Marcel the Shell with Shoes On fully earns its awards buzz. What begins as a seemingly extended skit full of Marcel’s improvisational riffs and sweet musings on life as he guides us through his hilarious everyday inventions (the tennis ball car and electric-mixer-come-tree-shaker are highlights) soon develops into a surprisingly tender and profound story about the power of community while exploring loss, grief and loneliness.

The mockumentary is hugely inventive and refreshing, with Fleischer-Camp and Slate wonderfully striking that sweet spot between humour and heart. While the moving moments shared between Marcel and Connie prove the heart of the film (tantamount to the strength of Slate and Rossellini’s vocal performances), the budding friendship and affect the titular protagonist has on filmmaker Dean’s arc also shines through. Admittedly, those who aren’t on board with the central concept may quickly grow tired of the quirky and whimsical nature – with the meta-commentary on internet fame also proving an odd narrative detour – but you truly have to be made of stone to not want Marcel protected at all costs!

Fans of the original series can breathe easy as the hybrid live-action and stop-motion animation blend seamlessly. It’s always a concern that the homemade, crafty feel of the shorts would be lost in the translation to the big screen. And while the Marcel and Connie figures are certainly more polished, the adorable and emotive nature (those cute honey shoeprints!) and wonderfully creative inventions definitely remain. Animation director Kirsten Lepore and her team have clearly poured hours upon hours of meticulously crafted into the incredibly detailed frame-by-frame technique, which is beautifully lit by the duo of cinematographers Bianca Cline and Eric Adkins.


Surprisingly profound and beautifully animated, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a wonderfully heartfelt outing which spotlights that even the smallest of creatures can have the mightiest of impacts. Marcel and the rocks in Everything Everywhere All At Once really are proving that googly eyes are the heart of this awards season!

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