The entirety of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is sweet and witty

Omar L. Gallaga

In 2010, eons ago in internet time, “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” debuted as a cute three-minute short on Vimeo. It was a tiny shell with a googly eye named Marcel, voiced by comic Jenny Slate, interviewed by the filmmaker about his little life. He was wearing tiny little sneakers.

“Once I nibbled on a piece of cheese and my cholesterol went up to 900,” Marcel said in a hoarse, high-pitched whisper. “Guess what my skis are? A man’s fingernails.

“Marcel” was adorable and popular. The video was a hit and because the web wants more, two more shorts were made by Slate and filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp over the next few years.

Now, in 2022, a feature film expands Marcel’s world to include many more seashells, a journey that goes beyond Marcel’s Airbnb digs in Los Angeles and new cast members including Isabella Rossellini, Rosa Salazar and Lesley Stahl (yes, Lesley Stahl from “60 Minutes”).

For fans of the shorts, the good news is that the film greatly expands Marcel’s world while retaining the whimsical, understated melancholy that made the original videos so memorable. It combines live action sequences with the same style of stop-motion animation; it looks intentionally rough and homemade, a mockumentary, but the credits reveal that it took a lot of technical wizardry and behind-the-scenes talent to make the film look so naturalistic.

In the film, Marcel and his grandmother Connie (Rossellini) rebuild their lives and surroundings after a fight between a couple living in their Airbnb leads to a cataclysmic disaster that sweeps everyone away from the love of shells and the couple.

Jenny Slate on the red carpet on March 11, before the premiere of "Everything everywhere all at once" at the Paramount Theater during South by Southwest.  Slate "Marcel the shod shell" also premiered at SXSW 2022.

The new resident (Fleischer-Camp), who is looking for a new place after splitting up, begins making videos of Marcel, which eventually go viral on the internet, leading to the filming of a segment on “60 Minutes” about Marcel and his life.

The most surprising thing about a full movie version of “Marcel the Shell” is how mournful and deeply moving it is. Yes, it’s funny and clever and there’s a lot of good jokes, including research into documentary film pretenses. “Nobody has any idea and even really knows what it’s like when you do it,” Marcel explains to his grandmother.

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