More is not always better, especially in films. In fact, I would say that it’s more often than not the opposite case. George Lucas thought he constantly had to outdo himself and kept adding plot lines for the audience to follow to each sequel’s third act (culminating in 3 for Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace), only to realize that it became unmanageable for audiences. Some of the best films are simple stories that focus on polishing and refining the characters and concepts explored. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Like the Paddington films, it is a sweet, simple story that highlights how to be our best selves.

Marcel (Jenny Slate from Parks and Recreation, Zootopia) is a sentient seashell who wears shoes (hence the name of the film) and lives with his grandmother (Isabella Rossellini, Death Becomes Her) in an AirBnb in what seems like the Pacific Northwest of the United States. They meet the current tenant of their abode, who is a documentary filmmaker named Dean (Dean-Fleicher-Camp, who is also the director and screenwriter of the film), and he consequently films Marcel and all her shenanigans.

Marcel leads a simple life where he uses his ingenuity to explore the house, collect trinkets, and leave his mark on the place. The ways he gets about and adapts to his world are truly clever, and often result in some really delightful gags and set pieces. The film’s genre is listed as a comedy, and while it’s more nuanced than that, it is also true that it earns that title.

The voice work by Jenny Slate and Isabella Rossellini are really spectacular, with both really being the heart of the film. Their earnest performances are among the best voice performances in years. I think Slate is among the finest voice actors working today, with this being her biggest achievement.

The film is a bit unique in that it is filmed and presented as a documentary. Obviously it’s not real (all the shells are claymation), but using this format allows the audience to contemplate our collective obsession with celebrity and the allure of the voyeurism of reality TV.

The conflict of the film comes from Marcel longing to be with his family, who somehow got relocated when the previous owners divorced. This conflict highlights the themes of the film, which are the enrichment provided by human (or shell, in this case) connection and the shallowness of internet fame, from both the perspective of the celebrity and their devotees. And these come to a head in the third act with an exhilarating and deeply moving finale. 


It’s not every day you get to experience a perfect (or at least near perfect) film like Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. It was completely unexpected for it to be as good as it was, but I can assure you that it IS that good.

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On opens in limited release on July 8th and will receive a wider release on the July 15th.


This film is for all ages. However, it does deal with heavy themes, like death and divorce. My children really enjoyed it and were not uncomfortable, but some might be.


  • Marcel the Shell With Shoes On