Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

PG¦ Blu-ray, DVD

Question: have you ever eaten a raspberry? It may not be the most hard hitting of questions to ask, but when you’re a one inch tall shell, it’s important to know.

Having appeared in a number of short animations in 2010 on line, Marcel the inquisitive shell has made the very slow leap to the big screen.

boom reviews Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
Excuse me sir but does this come in chocolate brown?

Due to matters in his personal life, Dean (Dean Fleischer Camp) has to find alternative accommodation pretty quick, so rents an Airbnb. He thought he had the house to himself, but as he soon discovers, that’s not exactly the case, as it is the home to two shells – Marcel (Jenny Slate) and his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini).

Dean, a filmmaker, soon realises that Marcel would be the perfect subject for a documentary and he agrees to allow himself to be filmed.

As Dean learns more from filming Marcel, he gets a better understanding of his back story, especially his family and community that also lived there, and decides that maybe he could help. For Marcel, whose still somewhat overwhelmed by having a film made about him, doesn’t yet fully appreciate the power of film, or what’s in store for him just around the corner.

boom reviews Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
I'm just a big fan of the warmth you get from vinyl.

As well as appearing in the film, Dean Fleischer Camp makes his feature directorial debut with the further adventures of his little shell friend. Camp continues his style of using live action mixed with stop motion animation, to present his diminutive subject within a natural home environ. It’s a simple technique but works beautifully.

Although the setting, of which the majority of it is within one house, has echoes of Toy Story, it’s more intimate than that.

It is a film about family and community, and what happens when you don’t have them. Marcel loses his family and friends, and when Camp discovers him, he’s coming to terms with living his life without them.

He’s not alone however, as he still has his grandmother with him. And it’s this relationship that highlights that bond between grandchildren and grandparents, and how influential and important it can be to both parties.

It’s this sense of family and belonging that is at the centre of this film, which Camp the actor playing the documentary filmmaker develops with his interaction with his subject.

And although visually Marcel isn’t all that impressive, with a shell as a body, a pair of basic shoes, one eye and a drawn on mouth, you will soon find yourself falling for his innocent charm. Proving that you don’t have to spend millions at Pixar to create an adorable character.

One minor gripe is that he does find himself making a number things, like rope for instance, which is curious as he has neither arms or hands – he’s a shell after all – and when we see him pulling the rope, using just the edges of his body, it doesn’t quite work. But you soon find yourself shrugging it off and putting it down to the magic of film. After all, there aren’t that many shells that speak English in the first place.

And although it involves rudimentary animation techniques, the kind that could easily be replicated at home these days, it doesn’t take away from its charming spectacle and whimsy. It’s also likely to put a lump in your throat from time to time, as there’s no getting away from how emotionally invested you will be in this little guy’s life.

It’s also been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Film category, where it’s up against some heavy hitters with big studio clout behind them, but Marcel not only deserves his place amongst them, but what a story it would be if the little guy won gold – how he’d pick the statue up however, is another story.

There’s something overwhelmingly joyful and life-affirming about Marcel’s adventure, that makes this mockumentary a heart-warming pleasure.

we give this four out of five