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Marcel The Shell With Shoes On (2022)

In this year's crop of awards-nominated animated features one stands out from the crowd. Marcel The Shell With Shoes On comes not from a major animation studio but from indie darlings A24. It's their first ever animated feature and has gone on to score nominations all over including both from the Oscars and the BAFTAs.

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is directed by Dean Fleischer Camp and written by Fleischer Camp with Jenny Slate and Nick Paley. It features the voices of Jenny Slate and Isabella Rossellini, with live-action appearances by Dean Fleischer Camp. Joe Gabler and Rosa Salazar.

Marcel first appeared in a series of shorts released on YouTube back in 2010. The videos take the formats of interviews with Marcel, a one-inch high shell with pink shoes on. The feature uses much the same structure, with the majority of the film taken up with these interviews.

In the story, Dean (Fleischer Camp, playing himself) is staying in the house after a break-up when he comes across Marcel. He begins to video interviews with the miniature mollusc and uploads them to YouTube. The story takes on a meta dimension, as the videos themselves become part of the plot.

Marcel now lives alone with his grandmother after the rest of his community disappeared- including his parents. The overarching plot revolves around Marcel's search for his family

This isn't an entirely animated film and does incorporate a significant amount of live-action footage. The stop-motion animation and live-action elements are combined artfully to create a satisfying whole. The live-action cinematography of the film is excellent, making for a frequently beautifully shot film,

The stop-motion animation is pretty simple- perhaps deceptively so- and does not draw attention to itself. In comparison to some of the other stop-motion animation released in 2022 this is decidedly less extravagant.

Considering that he is in almost every frame this film succeeds or fails based on Marcel himself. Luckily he's a very lovable character, brought to adorable life by (an unrecognisable) Jenny Slate. Although Marcel is a cute character he manages to avoid becoming cloying or sickly sweet. The film's sense of humour helps with this too.

Marcel's world is brought to life with great wit and invention. He uses a series of ingenious ways of getting around a world built for humans when you're just an inch high. Ideas such as using a tennis ball as a vehicle or improvised poles to reach a switch or button, it has fun with a sense of scale.

The film is very much an adaptation of the original shorts. On the journey to the big screen the same spirit has been retained and not watered down, despite the larger canvas. The film is presented as a mock documentary that consists primarily of interviews of Marcel conducted by Dean.

Despite the much longer running time and increased budget Marcel The Shell With Shoes On the movie keeps things simple. It remains modest in scope with almost the entire film taking place within the same four walls- save for a car trip or the occasional jaunt into the garden. The film's story too is refreshingly simple. It doesn't feel the need to send Marcel on an epic quest or a globe-trotting adventure. Not that it lacks in emotional stakes- you will likely come to care a great deal for Marcel and be invested in his search for his family

Not every short film would translate so well to a feature, and Marcel seems like an unlikely candidate. Somehow it works. Marcel the Shell With Shoes on is an endlessly charming and heartwarming film that is sure to warm your cockles. It would be a hard heart indeed that doesn't warm to Marcel.



IN A NUTSHELL:  A touching and skillfully made little film that is as irresistibly adorable as its title character.