Marcel the Shell with Shoes On review

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Expanding his series of animated online shorts, Dean Fleischer Camp introduces cinema audiences to his unlikely hero – a plucky, curious and very big-hearted talking shell. Camp, playing himself off-screen, is a documentary filmmaker called Dean who rents a house on Airbnb after splitting from his girlfriend. While licking his wounds, he becomes aware he’s not alone.

In the hidden corners of the house, Marcel (voiced with childlike innocence by Jenny Slate) is quietly going about his business.

As he’s only an inch high, the witty one-eyed mollusc can use a record player as a treadmill, a tennis ball as a mode of transportation and can climb the walls by applying gloops of honey to the soles of his tiny shoes.

The unguarded little mollusc is also in desperate need of someone to talk to. The man and woman who own the house split up and left two years ago and, due to a careless emptying of a sock drawer, the man took most of Marcel’s mollusc community with him.

Now, the only shells in the house are Marcel and his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) who is struggling with the early stages of dementia.

Dean, surprisingly unfazed by his discovery, sets about shooting a documentary about Marcel which goes viral.

For the opening half hour or so, I feared this hand-crafted oddity could become insufferably twee. But after a while, I stopped admiring the animation and was completely taken in by the characters.

Marcel and Dean’s friendship and Marcel’s love for his sick granny feel very real, as do the threats posed to this fragile little chap by the human world.

By the end, I was fully on board with the idea of talking shells with built-in footwear. If this wins the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, will Marcel climb the podium to accept it?

  • Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Cert PG, In cinemas now

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