Wondering Where All the Whimsy Went? Watch ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ and Find Out

1 Comment

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (CREDIT: A24)

Starring: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rossellini, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, Lesley Stahl

Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: PG for A Few Arguments and Brushes with Mortality

Release Date: June 24, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: While staying at an Airbnb, a documentary filmmaker (director Dean Fleischer-Camp as himself) makes a fascinating discovery: one inch-tall anthropomorphic shell Marcel (Jenny Slate) and his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini. They’ve been living in the house for as long as they can remember amidst a rotating door of human roommates. Dean is so taken by Marcel and his unique worldview that he uploads footage of him to YouTube. It immediately becomes the most viral thing on the Internet, which leads Marcel to wonder if this is the perfect opportunity to track down his missing family members, who were removed from the house during an incident a couple of years earlier. Luckily for Marcel, his story attracts the attention of his beloved 60 Minutes, whose crew is excited to interview him and investigate any leads related to his family. But is Marcel truly ready to venture out into the wider world?

What Made an Impression?: Marcel originated as a 3-minute video that Slate and Fleischer-Camp posted onto YouTube back in 2010, just a few months after her one and only season on Saturday Night Live. At the time it was a boon for her career (which has continued to chug along steadily in the decade-plus since), but it never seemed like it was anything more than a one-off goof, at least not from my vantage point. Who could ever have thought that something so whimsical and (literally) lightweight could ever bear the weight of a feature-length story? Well apparently, Slate and Fleischer-Camp thought it could, and I’m glad they believed, because I’m now obligated to report that Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is absolutely delightful.

What really holds it all together is the fact that nobody ever questions the existence of Marcel and his family. They’re a little surprised and plenty entertained, but the world is just profoundly accepting of the fact that creatures like this can exist. And why wouldn’t you be, when they’re just so guileless and openhearted? He might be small in stature, but a visit from Marcel is like a big hug from the universe reminding you that true wonderment is still possible. Also, investigative journalism is a big deal to plenty of people for good reason. To paraphrase a certain superhero classic, you’ll believe a man can be a shell.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is Recommended If You Like: Aardman Animation, Grey Gardens, Documentary Now!

Grade: 4 out of 5 YouTube Views

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Incredibles 2’ Uses Its Period Setting and the Responsibility of Superpowers to Show How to Be an Adult

Leave a comment

©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

This review was originally published on News Cult in June 2018.

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Brad Bird, Jonathan Banks, Sophia Bush, Phil LaMarr, Isabella Rossellini, John Ratzenberger, Bill Wise

Director: Brad Bird

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rating: PG for Action Sequences Involving Dangerously Heavy Structures

Release Date: June 15, 2018

The Incredibles films stick out among Pixar’s oeuvre for how much more adult they are than the rest of the animation brand’s features. That is not to say that everything else is merely kids’ stuff. Indeed, there is plenty for audiences of all ages to appreciate in the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, etc. The difference is that the typical Pixar offering features childlike wonder presented with unusually mature storytelling sophistication, whereas The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 are primarily concerned with the struggles of being a grown person: how to raise a family, how to earn a living, how to reconcile the way you live with the self-identity you perceive on the inside. With this focus along with its period trappings, Incredibles 2 continues asking its franchise’s fundamental question of whether or not we have shaped society as it ought to be.

Incredibles 2, like the original, is vague about its time period, but based on the outfits, manner of speaking, and predominant technology, it is easy to peg it as 1960s America. With that in mind, if The Incredibles were to exist as a TV series, it is not too hard to imagine it as the first animated example of AMC’s stable of period dramas. (The presence of two of the stars of Better Call Saul among the voice cast certainly bolsters this perception.) Incredibles 2 features more stable (though no less harried) domesticity than Mad Men, but the concerns of Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) are not terribly different from those of Don Draper, while Helen Parr’s (Holly Hunter) career-minded focus in the face of skepticism is absolutely of a piece with that of Peggy Olson. Writer/director Brad Bird’s grounded approach to the existence of supers allows all viewers to consider that no matter what their own unique abilities are, they ought to make the best of them, for the world’s sake.

The reflectiveness and contextualization inherent to a period setting are key to getting the point across. This outing, in which Helen/Elastigirl is recruited for a PR campaign to make superpowers legal again while fighting a mysterious villain who uses screens to carry out mind control schemes, touches upon issues of media manipulation, trust (or lack thereof) in institutions, and the power and limits of basing a campaign around a single figurehead. Anyone paying attention to the political scene in 2018 will recognize similar disturbances in Incredibles 2. It is important to be reminded that these crises are not new and to know a big part of being an adult is responding to these challenges.

Bottom line: if you loved the kinetic action and family dynamics of the first Incredibles, you will probably love them all over again in Incredibles 2. If the prospect of a baby growing into his impressively wide-ranging superpowers has you excited, just wait until you see what Jack-Jack is up to. And rest assured, Edna Mode’s (Bird) scenes do not disappoint. This entry is not as mold-breaking as the original, but it is reliably entertaining and has plenty to say.

Incredibles 2 is Recommended If You Like: The Incredibles, AMC period dramas

Grade: 4 out of 5 Eye Lasers