HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - If you were on the internet back in 2010, you may remember a time when, instead of sharing Tik-Toks or Instagram Reels, the main form of online-comedy-currency was rather simple: YouTube short films. Among the various pieces from SNL, CollegeHumor and Funny Or Die, there's one character who has stuck around long after he was first shared via email or Facebook "wall" post.
Enter: "Marcel The Shell With Shoes On," who has now made the leap from your old laptop all the way to the big screen. Marcel returns to the limelight in a mockumentary that chronicles his quest to return to his shell-family.
The film is quiet. Its jokes, subtle and cute. Its charm comes, as you might expect, from character. We spend most of our time with only Marcel (Jenny Slate), his grandmother (Isabella Rossellini), and the man who's making a movie about them, portrayed by real-life director, Dean Fleischer-Camp. Over the course of 90 minutes, these characters experience a powerful story about life, loss, and taking the impossible first steps on the journey to become whole again.
It's more than I bargained for when I sat down to watch a movie about a cartoon anthropomorphic shell.
Marcel has always been funny, adorable and melancholy since his first short hit YouTube 12 years ago. This feature film uses the quirky tone of those original shorts to tell a beautiful story, with all the cinematic grandeur of a Best Picture Oscar-Winner (had Marcel's journey graced our screens during the fall awards season, I would have hoped for a nomination). The micro-cinematography is astounding. The performances are sensitive, the animation: pitch-perfect. "Marcel The Shell with Shoes On" uses a strange-on-the-surface premise to tell one of the most breathtaking and heartbreakingly human stories I've seen in a theater this year. This is the kind of original, creative, crowd-pleasing film that warrants celebration. In a movie world that's largely characterized by a handful of studios, an onslaught of franchise films, and big, ballooning budgets, Marcel is the "little guy" we should all look out for.
After all, if you've ever thought the world was a big, scary place... how might it look to a small stop-motion animated shell that wears sneakers?
4.5 Shells out of 5.
Presented by Cinema Cafe.
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