Saturday, February 11, 2023

Stubs - Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2022) Starring Dean Fleischer Camp, Lesley Stahl. Voices by Jenny Slate, Isabella Rossellini. Directed by Dean Fleischer Camp. Screenplay by Dean Fleischer Camp, Jenny Slate, Nick Paley. Based on Characters created by Dean Fleischer Camp, Jenny Slate. Produced by Elisabeth Holm, Andrew Goldman, Caroline Kaplan, Paul Mezey, Dean Fleischer Camp, Jenny Slate, Terry Leonard Run time: 90 minutes. USA. Color. Stop-Motion, Animated, Comedy, Drama.

One of the surprises when the 2023 Academy Awards nominations for Best Animated Feature Film were announced may have been Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Compared to some of the other nominated films, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Turning Red and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Marcel was not as well-known.

The film, which took seven years to make, thanks in part to the stop-motion animation, is based on a trilogy of stop-motion animated mockumentary short films directed by Dean Fleischer Camp, who co-wrote the script with Jenny Slate, that were initially released in 2010. Originally shown at the Telluride Film Festival in 2021, the film rights were purchased by A24 films and released in the U.S. on June 24, 2022. A darling of the festival circuit, the film made $6.3 million during its theatrical release.

Dean (Dean Fleischer Camp), a documentarian, and his subject Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate).
The story deals with Dean (Dean Fleischer Camp), a documentarian who moves into an Airbnb rental when his relationship ends. There, he discovers Marcel (Jenny Slate), a shell with one eye and a pair of shoes living with his grandmother Nana Connie (Isabella Rossellini). Despite their obvious limitations, the two of them have created a happy life for themselves, with the big weekly event being watching Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes every Sunday night.

Marcel with his grandmother Nana Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini).

Dean makes videos that he posts online and which pretty quickly goes viral with all that entails, including over anxious fans tracking down the house. The internet sensation gets the attention of 60 Minutes and Lesley Stahl’s attention, leading to an appearance on the show and leading to Marcel being reunited with his estranged family.

The film has a certain charm. The main character Marcel is cute and innocent. While he is a master of his own world, he is blissfully ignorant about the world outside his house. Jenny Slate’s voice seems rights for a male character of a young age. A stand-up comic, Slate may be more familiar for her voice work including working on Zootopia (2016), The Secret Life of Pets (2016), Despicable Me 3 (2017), and a recurring role on Bob’s Burgers. She also appeared in Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022).

Isabella Rossellini seems to have reached a point in her career when she seems comfortable playing older characters. The daughter of Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and Italian director Roberto Rossellini, her first film appearance was opposite her mother in A Matter of Time (1976). Since she’s appeared in such films as Blue Velvet (1986), Death Becomes Her (1992), Wyatt Earp (1994), Immortal Beloved (1994), Big Night (1996), and The Saddest Music in the World (2003). While she’s not known for her voice work, she’s done so on such films as My Dog Tulip (2009), and The Incredibles 2 (2018). Her presence lends a lot of gravitas to the project. When asked to do the film, she told People magazine, "I was not familiar with the YouTube phenomena. But it was interesting to see that something that started so small on YouTube could find a way to be a feature film. And then I mentioned to my children I was asked to work on Marcel the Shell, they went berserk. They knew it very well. They said, 'You got to do it.'"

Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes plays herself.

It is also somewhat impressive that Lesley Stahl makes an appearance in the film. A stalwart on the long-running news magazine show 60 Minutes, Stahl has played herself before, appearing on an episode of Fraiser. Stahl’s appearance came through a personal relationship between 60 Minutes producer Shari Finkelstein and one of Macel’s producers, Elisabeth Holm. It also helped that Stahl’s grandchildren were already familiar with the characters. Her appearance does nothing to diminish the CBS show’s brand, but it does provide a real world touch to the otherwise fantasy film.

While I’ll admit I enjoyed the film, I was a little surprised that it qualified as an animated film when the Academy Awards nominations rolled out recently. While Marcel the Shell with Shoes On apparently meets the Academy’s stipulation that all Best Animated Feature contenders must contain animation for 75 percent of their runtimes, if you’re used to traditional animated and other stop-motion films you might not realize that’s what it is. Considering the competition it faces, I’m doubtful it will win, but one never knows until the envelope is opened.

Despite its award status, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a charming and unique work and I would recommend it to everyone.

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