Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp who co-stars along with Jenny Slate and Isabella Rossellini in the voice cast. Marcel (Slate) is a talking shell whose family and community has been whisked away, and he is left to care for his grandmother (Rossellini). But when Dean makes Marcel internet famous, there’s a possibility for Marcel to reunite with his long-lost loved ones.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’s main draw is its wholesome, cute ethos. At one point Marcel says, “Guess why I smile so a lot … ‘Cause it’s worth it.” That’s a fair summation of the film’s vibe, and its sweetness makes the film fun to watch, rarely slipping into overly saccharine cloying. Ultimately, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is life-affirming in the essential value it places on community, and in 2022, as we emerge from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s something genuine about Marcel’s hopes to be reunited with others.
But the film isn’t all sunshine. Marcel is young, and the film is about how growing up means adjusting to change and how the essential aspect of childhood is learning how to sort of make one’s own place in the world. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On has an emotional depth, and while I think many kids could enjoy this, they shouldn’t expect the same energy and action as DC League of Super Pets, Minions: The Rise of Gru, or any of the other recent younger-skewing films. Parents might have to be prepared to have conversations with kids about loss and about how to cope with the changes of growing up.
However, the film is not perfect. The first act feels like a short film that’s been stretched out, which is understandable because Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is based on viral YouTube videos. And the film’s conflict resolves, but there is still more run time, which makes it feel like it ends twice.
But aside from the wonky structure, there’s a lot to like with Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, and for those kids and parents who enjoyed Pixar’s deeper fare, like Inside Out and Soul, a talking shell might be the next animated character to make them smile and maybe even shed a tear.
Four out of Five Stars.