Review: ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ takes viewers on heartwarming, emotional journey


Marcel, the one-inch-tall, one eyed shell stands with his pink shoes on. The curious, resourceful and heartwarming shell has been entertaining viewers in short films for almost 13 years, but he finally made his big screen debut in 2022. Image Source: A24 promotional poster.

By Nina Sperling, Senior Reporter

I didn’t think a cute one-eyed shell that talks and wears shoes would make me grab a box of tissues, but when you see “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” you’ll realize you have no choice. A24 films released “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” in a limited release June 24, and then July 15 for its larger and official release, but it is not the first time that viewers may have seen the adorable, stop-motion animated shell. 

Actress Jenny Slate, known for her role as Monalisa Saperstein on “Parks and Recreation,” created the character of Marcel through a series of short films with her friend, filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp. The first short film gained 215,000 views since its release on YouTube, Oct. 16, 2010. The original shorts were produced in a mockumentary style. In the shorts, Marcel shows Fleischer-Camp around his house as he answers questions and tells stories about his life, embodying a sense of optimism that he carries into the film.

Marcel, voiced by Jenny Slate, is a one-inch-tall shell who talks, wears pink shoes and lives in a real life house. He lives with his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini) and pet ball of lint, Alan. In the feature film, he and Connie are the only shells left in their backyard shell community after their family and friends disappear. An Airbnb guest, Dean (Dean Fletcher-Camp), who is also a filmmaker, discovers Marcel and starts filming him, publishing shorts on YouTube and gaining him mass popularity. The comedic and heartwarming film follows Marcel as he handles fame and attempts to find and reunite his lost family.

Throughout the film, Marcel captivates viewers through his little voice, quips and resourcefulness. Slate’s portrayal of Marcel resonated with me, as it was humorous and heartwarming while also conveying themes of loneliness and hopefulness. I empathized with his loneliness and fear of admitting his emotions, but his humorous quips quickly turned my tears to laughter.

Although I think Marcel is adorable, Stale said in a review with The Atlantic that she was reluctant to describe him as cute because “[she doesn’t] want to infantilize him,” and she “think[s] of him as really capable.” Even though Marcel is a shell, viewers can still relate to him. Fleischer-Camp said that “‘he’s confident and self-possessed … He doesn’t get down when those obstacles are thrown his way.”

The themes in “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” are supported by lighting in each scene, which adds whimsicality and more emotion to the story. When Marcel’s moods change, the mood of the lighting changed with him. I could see Marcel’s optimism reflected in the bright color tones throughout the film. Some of the first shots of the film show the sun shining brightly through the windows of the house. The “imperfections” that the cinematographers included, such as filming on a handheld camera, added more authenticity to the mockumentary style of the film.

I enjoyed the small, adorable elements of Marcel’s world Slate and Fleischer-Camp included throughout the film, such as him sleeping on a loaf of bread and sticking honey on his shoes to walk on walls in true Spider-Man style. His attempts at typing on a computer keyboard also turn into full-body workouts.

I love that no one questions Marcel’s identity, and he is accepted, especially by Dean. Their friendship is based on acceptance and empathy. Dean never discourages Marcel from finding his family and empathizes with his loneliness and desire for a sense of belonging.

Marcel’s relationship with Nana Connie adds emotional depth that I was not expecting when I watched the film, since I had to bring out tissues. Although Marcel and Nana Connie are both shells, they reminded me of the typical grandmother-grandkid dynamic that you might see among humans in real life. They watch the CBS news show “60 Minutes” and tend to their garden together. She is critical of his quirkiness at times, but viewers can tell that it is out of love.

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It might not seem like the film is deep on the surface, but viewers will soon realize that it depicts universal themes. As I watched the film, I realized that all Marcel wants is acceptance, to feel a sense of belonging and to feel connected, which I very much related to.

Although I did not expect “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” to make me cry, it was still a very cute, comforting, humorous and heartwarming film that you won’t want to miss.

  • Story
  • Acting
  • Technical Quality
  • Enjoyment
  • Impact


“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is a stop-motion-animated and live action film about Marcel, a cute one-inch-tall, one-eyed shell who wears pink shoes and talks. He and his Nana Connie are the only shells left after their community of shells disappears. When Dean, a guest, comes to stay in the real-life house Marcel lives in, he begins filming him and helping him search for his lost family. It is a comforting, humorous and emotional story about acceptance, a desire for connection and a sense of belonging.