Indie darling Marcel the Shell with Shoes On hits theaters on June 24, and we’ve taken a look at what critics are saying about the inch-high protagonist in his big screen debut.
The film, distributed by A24, is adapted from Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate’s decade-old series of viral shorts. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On plays a bit like a documentary, turning on the miniature shell who lives with its grandma Connie (Isabella Rossellini) and a pet piece of lint named Alan. Marcel kicks off when a documentary filmmaker books the Airbnb where Marcel and his grandmother live, and begins chronicling the young protagonist’s coming-of-age journey of self-discovery.
It’s one thing to animate digital shorts bound for Youtube, but a completely different animal producing something that works on the big screen for 90 minutes. To that end, the producers of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On recruited special effects pioneer Stephen Chiodo (Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Team America: World Police, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) as the film’s supervising animation director. Chiodo Bros. Productions was the animation company, with Edward Chiodo serving as the animation producer and Kirsten Lepore as animation director.
For our roundup, we decided to stick with reviews that spotlighted the work done by the film’s stop-motion team, all of which were effusive with their praise. At the time this article was posted, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On boasts a 100% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Here’s what the critics are saying:
AV Club’s Courtney Howard gave a special shout-out to stop-motion DP Eric Adkins:
In addition to its well-conceived, properly paced narrative, the aesthetic, auditory, and animated aspects bring this universe to life. Cinematography from live-action DP Bianca Cline and stop-motion animation DP Eric Adkins is effused and poetically evocative. Academy aspect ratio (1.33:1) and documentary style photography amplify the exchange of intimacy and immediacy between subject and camera. Animators, taking cues from Slate and Rossellini’s perfectly pitched vocal inflections, give Marcel and Connie a wonderful expressiveness, both overt (like when they cry or blink) and nuanced (both in their physicality and how their mouths move).
Carla Renata at RogerEbert.com was enthralled by how well the film’s stop-motion scenes were integrated with those shot in live action:
The crystal-clear precision of the stop-motion animation in Marcel the Shell with Shoes On seamlessly melds with the live-action material and is fascinating to behold. But my favorite part was watching 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl infiltrate the pivotal interview reuniting Marcel with his community and the glee surrounding Connie and Marcel in the process. It really does speak to the child’s heart of even the most cynical of adults.
Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson was equally impressed:
The stop-motion is impressive in its offhand way, deftly integrating Marcel into the live-action environments, and Slate’s precise voice work continues to shine. Marcel may be childlike and bighearted, but he’s also slyly sarcastic, exuding a melancholy air while finding plenty of everyday things that delight him. (He still has his pet Alan, a piece of lint he walks on a leash like a dog.) Marcel is such a clever creation that it’s fun to be back in his company.
Kate Erbland at Indiewire applauded the film’s “inventive stop-motion” and sensitive portrayal of grief:
In a time beset with films consumed by questions of connection, community, and change, Marcel the Shell seamlessly marries big ideas with charm and humor (and inventive stop-motion work to boot). In short, it’s the cutest film about familial grief you’ll see all year, perhaps ever.
In her The Hollywood Reporter review, Lovia Gyarkye says the efforts of the film’s animation crew are completely validated by the end product:
It’s impossible not to see the world differently after meeting Marcel, whose entire life is built off improvisation. Combining stop-motion animation with live-action footage is a painstaking process, and one that allows Fleischer-Camp to beautifully integrate Marcel’s miniature world into ours.
‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ is a Cinereach, You Want I Should, and Tulip production. Elisabeth Holm, Andrew Goldman, Caroline Kaplan, Paul Mezey, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Jenny Slate, and Terry Leonard produce with executive producers Philipp Engelhorn, William Byerley, Nion McEvoy, George Rush, and Michael Raisler.