A24 mockumentary ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ revives 2010 YouTube sensation with heartwarming new story

Sage Dunlap, Life and Arts Reporter

In 2010, filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp uploaded a three-minute stop-motion video to YouTube, interviewing a talking shell named Marcel about his hobbies. Two sequels and two storybooks later, the 1-inch-tall creature has amassed an unexpected fanbase, receiving praise from viewers around the world. Now, the phenomenon that is Marcel the Shell has earned a full-length feature film from A24 studios.

Hobbling into focus, the talkative shell lights up the screen in “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” releasing in theaters June 24. The 90-minute A24 mockumentary follows director Fleischer-Camp as he moves into an Airbnb and forms an unlikely friendship with Marcel, who lives in the house with his grandmother after an emergency destroyed the rest of his shell community. What begins as a series of interviews with Marcel blossoms into an exploration of the human world and its relationships through the eyes of an anthropomorphic creature who chooses to embrace life’s simple pleasures.

The 2010 series’ two-person cast returns to this project, with Jenny Slate providing the voice of Marcel and Fleischer-Camp playing himself. Both actors develop their characters beautifully, packing layers of complex character traits through primarily off-screen voice work. Slate takes on the persona of Marcel by mimicking the innocence and naivety of a child, delivering blunt quips and unknowingly profound statements in a flat tone that evokes powerful, emotional responses from viewers. Fleischer-Camp, though heard mostly behind the camera, portrays himself as a laid-back director who chats back and forth with Marcel, prodding for details about his personal life. The duo combines to communicate powerful dialogue amid a deceivingly simple storyline. 

The film’s pacing perfectly suits Marcel’s day-to-day life, sparing no detail in showing viewers all of Marcel’s inventive adaptations to live more comfortably among humans. The creature, outfitted with a googly eye and pink-painted shoes, rolls around the house in a tennis ball and lounges on cotton balls while he watches “60 Minutes” — his favorite show. Fleischer-Camp utilizes the shell’s colorful, mundane life to contrast more mature topics about dysfunctional relationships which play out among humans in the house. The descriptions of human behaviors through the comically large eyes of Marcel grants audiences a look at the human world from a character who revels in simple pleasures with childlike wonder.

While Fleischer-Camp’s seamless animation style and camera work make for a visual treat, the script still stands out as the film’s defining victory. With only four writers — including Fleischer-Camp and Slate — the film’s dialogue remains sharp, witty and hilarious throughout the runtime. Whether off-the-cuff quips, heartwarming observations about community or words of encouragement from Marcel to his human counterparts, the film’s dialogue will generate both laughter and tears while juggling themes of love, loss and togetherness.

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” compels audiences to consider the small pleasures that make the world’s grandiose size feel manageable. Complete with stunning cinematography and a cameo from “60 Minutes’” Leslie Stahl, the film will conjure a large array of emotions but ultimately leave audiences feeling more hopeful about the world around them. 

5 tennis ball vehicles out of 5A24 mockum

entary ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ revives 2010 YouTube sensation with heartwarming new story