'Marcel The Shell With Shoes On' Review
You don't necessarily have to put on your dancing shoes this time because someone already has ones on for gardening, skating and whatnot. That certain someone is obviously the titular Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate, also a co-writer) in Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, a feature film adaptation featuring the character from viral shorts from few years back, which I personally hadn't discovered beforehand. Starting from scratch with the character, Marcel is a talking shell living in an Airbnb with his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini) after the house's previous owners accidentally packed up and moved with rest of their family and community. Documentarian Dean (director, co-writer and co-editor Dean Fleischer Camp) rents the place and starts to make a film about Marcel, following his life around the house and their eventual attempt to find Marcel and Connie's lost family and friends.
There's an interesting angle to the film pretty immediately as it plays with its documentary setup but the building blocks aren't the familiar story beats usually found in that specific medium. Instead, Fleischer Camp's, who's also making his feature debut, construction of the piece often takes its cues from unexpected but brilliantly rendered comedy where the humour tells the viewer what kind of movie they're watching, which is sweet but also a little bit offbeat. That comedy leads Marcel to explore being a viral sensation, subject of his favourite TV show and his new-found friendship with Dean but even then, it never loses the things that holds it all together, like pure kindness or simply being there for one another.
In that sense, Fleischer Camp, Slate and co-writer Nick Paley's (also a co-editor) screenplay is quite a home run because it balances the light touch with terrific dialogue that gives both Marcel and Connie so much personality, all the while going in and out of narrative and documentary mediums. That then gives an opportunity for the actors—Slate particularly—to expand on those characteristics which helps you track and identify with their characters' journeys, though Fleischer Camp does often put himself in the nice-guy-always-saying-the-nice-thing box that typically follows filmmakers making something so meta. Similarly somewhat uneven is the score by Disasterpeace, where the focus on mellow ambience can feel untrue for Marcel's spirit or his and Connie's longing to find their loved ones. Luckily you're less distracted by it as the film goes on since you've become so attached to this thoughtful, lovely little shell and his adventures.
Smileys: Humour, screenplay, Jenny Slate, structure
Frowneys: Minor issues with score
This should have a solid shell life.