Life moves fast, but no matter the velocity that things come at us, we’ll always find time for Jenny Slate. The US comedienne surfaced in sitcom Parks and Recreation, but The Obvious Child, Gifted and Everything, Everywhere All At Once provided the showcases for her talents that her misbegotten fifth-banana role in the first Venom film assuredly did not. As well as voicing the titular protagonist in ex-husband Dean Fleischer Camp’s film, Slate co-wrote the screenplay, and fans of her offbeat, personal comedy will find plenty to enjoy in this crazy, yet enjoyably daft little film, deservedly winning awards traction right now.
In the style of Aardman’s beloved Creature Comforts, Marcel the movie sees a documentary crew interviewing Marcel, a mollusc who lives with his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rosselini) and rolls around in a tennis ball that helps him around his domain. Much as the YouTube clips of Marcel that hit big between 2010 and 2014 led to directly the making of this film, Marcel takes off on the socials, going viral online, inadvertently shining a light on the hidden parts of Marcel’s life. Can Marcel negotiate stardom and find true happiness?
Shot in Academy ratio (1.33-1), Marcel the Shell with Shoes on isn’t really for kids; it’s never as sentimental as a Disney or a Pixar movie, but moves with a sweet energy of its own. Marcel and Connie are happy enough, but they’re also separated from their community, and Camp’s dialogues with Marcel reveal a lot about our need for safety and our reluctance to rock the boat and take risks, risks that are required to bring us all out of our shells. There’s a certain post-lockdown sense spoken here that’s always positive and affirming, even when dealing with Connie’s onset of dementia; it might look like a kids film, but there’s plenty of food for thoughts for adults, and that food isn’t escargot.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On has been popular with audiences and critics, and is one of these little movies that deserve the platform that awards season brings; it’s as unassuming and uncalculated as its tiny protagonist, but has a big, identifiable message that pretty much everyone can relate to. If you only see one film about a mollusc this year, Marcel The Shell With Shoes on is the only show in town when it comes to snail tales.