Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
📷 : Used with permission, Showtime
Youthful, lighthearted, and fun movies and TV shows
Movies and TV shows with heart, positive vibes, and warm messages
Admittedly, as I have gotten older and cynical, I have written off nearly every movie with talking animals or inanimate objects as “for kids.” I may watch them with my niece and chuckle but never fully believe there are any life lessons to be learned. What could a kid’s movie tell me about life (never mind that all of these movies are made by adults)? Every now and then, though, I sit down with an open mind and get a reminder that family movies can deliver a message that resonates with viewers of all ages. Dean Fleischer-Camp’s touching mockumentary about a resilient mollusk gave me just that reminder.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On presents a protagonist who is both literally and figuratively down-to-earth. Marcel (Jenny Slate, Obvious Child) stands just an inch tall with one eye, but he sees the bigger picture far better than most. Separated from much of his family when the humans who owned his house moved away, Marcel looks after his grandmother, Connie (Isabella Rossellini, Enemy), and carries out his daily routine while being the subject of a documentary shoot. Despite his clear-cut regimen and affection for his grandmother, he has not given up on his search for the rest of his family. The odds are very much against him, as the couple that moved away has broken up and cannot stand one another. Furthermore, his family has no idea that he is even alive or looking for them.
His efforts are initially fruitless, as the public is more allured by the celebrity of Marcel than the opportunity to help him. Even though he gains notoriety from being on YouTube, his presence simply spawns fan videos and skits rather than any altruistic attempt to assist him in his search. He and Dean set out on a tour of the city, and when Dean’s car reaches an area with a panoramic view, Marcel is struck by its beauty. Sadly, he is also discouraged by how hard it will be to find his family given the endless possibilities of their whereabouts. A potentially fortune-changing moment occurs when a producer from 60 Minutes reaches out with an inquiry about doing a segment on Marcel. While the opportunity seems like a no-brainer, Marcel worries about the impact of all the hustle and bustle on his ailing grandmother’s health. He declines the interview initially before Connie convinces him that he cannot let the fear of change keep him from growing.
Much of the film, which is a continuation of the viral short film series from 2010, consists of banter between Marcel, Dean and Connie. While Dean wishes to remain off camera and unheard, Marcel asks questions as much as he provides information. His inquisitive nature would have you believe that he is naïve or lacking in wisdom. Quite the contrary, Marcel’s questions reveal a different and perhaps deeper understanding of the world than many humans. In one particular instance, Marcel notices the reactions in the comment sections of his YouTube videos and says, “It’s more of an audience than a community.” He realizes that while people are engaging or seeking attention for themselves, they are not actually bonding with one another in any significant way.
The most noteworthy aspect of Marcel’s character is that despite his diminutive stature, nothing seems insurmountable for him. He has figured out ways to accomplish any daily task that he needs to, from scaling the wall to shaking fruit out of the tree to typing up email responses. His performance of such tasks is generally overshadowed by his exchanges with Dean or Connie, but his adaptability stands out as an inspirational takeaway for the audience. For Marcel, none of these tasks are cumbersome or discouraging in the slightest. As the house seems vast to him, the world can seem vast to any one of us. Despite how overwhelming it can be, we all have the ability to acclimate ourselves to a routine and find it manageable if not enjoyable.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On feels like a delightful cross between Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Marcel’s mannerisms resemble that of the toys from the 1995 Pixar hit, all having to figure out how to maneuver around the vast houses they reside in. However, Marcel’s mission certainly resembles that of Nemo’s family, separated and trying to re-unite against all odds. The film provides many laughs and a few tears, but also serves as a reminder to any human being of what enduring spirits can accomplish.