Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

There’s a big heart inside this little shell.

Jenny Slate has been given a number of voice roles in movies like “Zootopia” and “The Secret Life of Pets,” and shows like “Big Mouth” and “The Great North,” but before them, she and her ex-husband Dean Fleischer-Camp made a short film called “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On.” A combination of stop-motion animation and live action, it was a viral hit, and now, their creation has expanded into a feature film. Both the short and movie are delightful, sentimental, and touching in every sense of the words.

I told Slate in regards to the voice roles she’s done commercially and this independent role: “It’s the little things that make big things.” Marcel is a boy mollusk with one google eye, and tiny pink shoes. And he has the cute voice of an elderly woman who was given a cheap youth formula. In fact, he’s a kid.

The world Marcel lives in looks like a cute model with small treehouses, breads for bed, and tennis balls for cars. Tiny props, CGI spiders (which apparently didn’t attack my arachnophobia), and even big things levitate them. Combine both worlds, and you see the pure imagination.

And this small world takes place inside an Airbnb, occupied by Dean, who is in the aftermath of a breakup. He decides to document the little mollusk and his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini), who is an avid gardener and a Lesly Stahl fan. They’re both “60 Minutes” fans, and before her family disappeared, they would all gather together for what they would call “The Show.”

Marcel is trying to find his family, who were lost after a terrible fight between the last occupants (Thomas Mann and Rosa Salazar). Dean posts his videos on YouTube, which becomes a media sensation. So, Marcel does a livestream, asking fans to locate his family. Unfortunately, they don’t take him seriously, and act like an audience, not a community. However, the people behind “60 Minutes” want to get his message out there.

I’m going to do Slate and Fleischer-Camp a favor by spreading the word about this movie, just as it expands this summer. I’m going to act like a community for them, because it has a number of big laughs regarding the innocence of the mollusk, and sincerely touching moments to warm you up. It’s rated PG, which matches the tone and levity. As far as I’m concerned, not many kids would savage seeing this movie, considering that it’s an artisan feature. But if some of the more commercial family films (like the recent “Lightyear” or the soon-to-be-released “Minions: The Rise of Gruesome”) sell out on a rainy day, this would still be your next best choice.

But I’m mostly endorsing “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” for the older crowd, who manage to find the comedy and tragedy inside this short-to-movie transition. It’s mainly because of the material written by both Slate and Fleischer-Camp, who don’t settle for the most obvious approaches and allow this little shell to expand his life story. They both act well as Slate delights us with her voice and vulnerabilities, while Fleischer-Camp interviews her with honesty. And credit also goes to Rossellini for putting life and love inside of the grandmother Connie.

This is a great movie-filled with laughs, tears, and visual wonders-and I’m glad I got a look at the short film on YouTube before I saw the expansion inside Marcel’s story. He’s a character you want to have a best friend, and he doesn’t judge or insult anyone. In fact, he’s more human than you’d expect. And Slate, who specializes in voice acting, is able to prove she’s more than just a cartoon voice actress. Believe me: you can hear more than just the ocean.

Rating: 4 out of 4.

Now Playing In Select Theaters

Everywhere July 15th

Categories: Animation, comedy

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