Marcel the Shell Review: The feel-good movie of the year
Originally conceived by former couple, director Dean Fleischer-Camp and comedian Jenny Slate, the journey of Marcel the Shell, an anthropomorphic shell with a googly eyes and tiny shoes, is one of the most heartwarming journeys of the year.
Although some might not know it, I sure didn’t, Marcel (voiced by Slate) garnered quite a following even before Fleischer-Camp made his directorial debut with a feature-length film focused on the character. Since Marcel first debuted on Fleischer-Camp’s YouTube channel in 2010, he has amassed millions of views that have turned him into a viral sensation and both Fleischer-Camp and Slate have been dedicated to expanding Marcel’s journey. There have been sequel short films made as well as tie-in children’s books and Fleischer-Camp and Slate have been there through it all. Now, Marcel has a big screen adventure of his own that instantly hooks you with how delightful its premise is.
Like the YouTube videos, the film is a mockumentary that sees Fleischer-Camp play a fictionalized version of himself as he documents his interactions with and the life of Marcel, who lives in an Airbnb house with his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini). Marcel’s first appearance on-screen instantly nabs your heart and holds your hand with care as he brings viewers on an intimate journey into this small but fascinating world. From seeing how Marcel and Connie utilize everyday home items to get food and maintain a good living to Marcel quickly roaming every inch of the house with the help of a tennis ball or honey, you’re just constantly delighted to see how the film really invites you into this charming world inside of our own.
Along with Dean generally asking Marcel questions, Marcel, himself, really leads the film with his innocently charming attitude and comedic wit. Nearly every line of Marcel’s either touches your heart in a way that makes you genuinely care about him or laugh with his innocent and surprisingly monotone comedic view of the world. Slate’s voice as Marcel is absolutely adorable and her line delivery here is some of her best work to date. Marcel is just a true star from start to finish and unexpectedly makes you super invested in his personal journey to find his family that was taken away from him and Connie. Speaking of Connie, Rossellini is equally fantastic as she elevates all of Connie’s care for Marcel and the quintessential grandmother wisdom she shares. The support she gives Marcel will completely melt your heart and her arc in the film will move viewers to tears.
Even Dean has an interesting role in the film with his own personal arc being established. There’s a great growing relationship between Marcel and Dean that not only allows for their dynamic to improve and become more heartfelt as the film goes on, but also lets some reality to bleed into the film. Dean’s struggles coming out of a relationship likely stems from Fleischer-Camp’s own feelings from his relationship with Slate ending adding in some real thoughts on post-relationship heartbreak that aren’t crude or demeaning. Even the idea of Marcel being a viral YouTube hit plays a role in the film and ends up opening new opportunities and obstacles for Marcel finding his family. Plus, Marcel’s love for 60 Minutes and journalist Leslie Stahl creates one of the best sequences in the movie that will have audiences roaring with laughter and cheers.
Truth is though, just watching Marcel’s journey in this world is unbelievably magical because of the incredible animation and heart the film has. The stop-motion animation and detail that comes from Chiodo Bros. Production is top-notch and really brings Marcel and other characters like him into the real world with stunning detail. It’s truly a tremendous feat just to see Marcel interact with things so smoothly in his own way and they help create a world full of whimsy and wonder that isn’t too far from our own. What really makes Marcel the Shell special though is just how emotional and engaging its story is. Fleischer-Camp’s direction keeps things intimate and personal allowing for the interactions to just burst with charm and constantly tug at your heart. It’s an emotionally fulfilling journey that will make you laugh and easily produce tears throughout and showcases some of the best family relationships you’ll see in a movie. The ending is especially a tear-jerker in how it creates a satisfying conclusion to Marcel’s personal journey and lets all the emotion built up freely flourish in every final moment.
Marcel the Shell is the feel-good movie of the year with its tiny protagonist producing the most heartwarming and emotional story about family you’ll see all year. It’s uniquely ambitious with its storytelling and animation and might be one of the most original films in years. Marcel the Shell will make you laugh, cry, and cheer throughout and leaves a lasting mark that makes the world a little more hopeful.