Review: Simple, Sassy ‘Marcel the Shell’ is the family star of 2022

It is normal that during the same season, Steven Spielberg ET: the extra-terrestrial (1982) is being re-released, we also have a new movie starring one of cinema’s most lovable non-human characters since the friendly alien 40 years ago.

Dean FleischerCampit is Marcel the shod shellcurrently in theaters, is my pick for best family film so far this year, second only to Céline Sciamma Little mom. And all thanks to a simple lively and sassy seashell and a beautiful voiceover from the actress Jenny Slate.

In an Airbnb, a filmmaker/documentarian (played by Fleischer-Camp in a scripted version of himself) decides to film a wandering, talking seashell with a large eye, a mouth, and tiny shoes. The small object passes by Marcel (Slate) and it lives an ordinary life in the house, or as ordinary as life can get for an inch-tall seashell.

Along with Fleischer-Camp and Marcel’s grandmother, Connie or “Nan” (Isabella Rossellini), Marcel takes the world by storm via Fleischer-Camp’s YouTube channel, social media and local news.

Rosa Salazar and Thomas Mann play a dysfunctional couple who owned the house Marcel grew up in, and CBS’s “60 Minutes” Lesley Stahl appears as herself and the host of Marcel’s favorite TV show.

Marcel the shell originally three shorts (2010-14) by Fleischer-Camp and Slate – who were married at the time – and now excels with an official script and runtime. Like ET, Marcel just wants to be reunited with his family (or his “community,” as the seashell calls them) with the help of a new friend.

The feature is a mix of many things, yet unique. The mockumentary style is smart because we see 90% of the story through Marcel’s POV and the humans are almost always exposed on the periphery. Fleischer-Camp’s meta-entry of getting started and the subtle reference to his own marriage aren’t too distracting.

The frame has elements from Mary Norton’s children’s book Borrowers (1952) and John Roberts Paulie (1998), but charms its way into viewers’ hearts with a new, modern take on social media attention and “real world” reminders. The use of stop-motion animation rather than CGI for Marcel, Connie, and the other little creatures also makes the mood and atmosphere more timeless.

With an adorable a capella cover of the Eagles’ “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” sung by the main character, Marcel the shod shell is perfect for families and adults this summer.

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