A24 is a studio whose name is synonymous with some of the best films in modern time. It’s given us a couple of truly horrifying movies from Ari Aster in Hereditary and Midsommar, along with Kevin Smith’s Tusk. Last year, we had great award-worthy entries like Minari, The Green Knight and The Lamb. And this award season, we get contenders like The Whale, Everything Everywhere All at Once and Aftersun. These cinematic masterpieces are just scratching the surface. In only a decade, A24 Films has a portfolio of hits that many other studios wish they had.
One thing missing from its impressive film vault are movies that fit into the family friendly genre. While many films the studio has released can be watched by mom, dad and the kiddos, they tend to deal with subject matters that may cause some tough conversations at the dinner table.
That lack of fun, sweet and heartwarming projects has come to an end with Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. This charming movie from feature-film newcomer Dean Fleischer-Camp is a mockumentary. After his divorce, Fleischer-Camp moves into an Airbnb where he befriends a shell named Marcel (Jenny Slate), who can surprisingly speak.
Marcel introduces Dean to his grandmother, Nana Connie (Isabella Rossellini), another shell who suffers from dementia. After the previous occupants of the house moved out, Marcel was separated from his shell family and asks Dean for help in finding them. The odds are not in their favor, but Dean introduces the world to Marcel in hopes of tracking down his lost relatives.
Blending both stop-motion animation with standard cinematography, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On does what many other movies of the type fail to do: Make the animation believable. While Marcel is simply a small seashell with a clay eye and shoes, the little guy fits into every scene, just like his living costars. This combination draws the viewer into the story, leading to a suspension of belief that allows one to really think, “That seashell can talk.”
Story-wise, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On covers tough topics with an innocence of a child. Divorce, spousal arguments and death of family members are all hit upon, but in a way that is very easy to talk about with one’s kid. How do I know? ‘Cause I sat down with my 8-year-old daughter to watch Marcel. And questions did come up, but the movie did a magnificent job in making these difficult subject matters more of a bonding moment, rather than a point of angst.
For example, my daughter asked me if I felt like Marcel when my dad and sister passed away. She had asked me before about this touchy subject, and it always brought tears to my eyes. But this time, she was able to understand the hurt. After I told her I do, she said, “Daddy, don’t be sad. Like Marcel, they would want you to be happy.”
Don’t think I have ever had a film touch both her and my heart in such a way.
Needless to say, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a five-out-of-five-star movie. A24 Films has yet another hit on its hands. A feat most impressive, as this is their first true family friendly film. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of many heartwarming movies I can share with my child. Be sure to see this cinematic treasure as soon as possible.