Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) is a 1-inch-tall shell who lives with his grandmother Nana Connie (Isabella Rossellini) in an Airbnb house. Because of their size, they have had to devise some ingenious ways to get by. Marcel rolls around the house inside a tennis ball. Nana Connie uses the wire fittings from a bottle of wine as a walker. They have attached a line between the mixer in the kitchen and a tree outside so when they turn on the mixer, it shakes the oranges out of the tree. The fruit supplements what Nana Connie grows in her garden in the flower box.
When a filmmaker (Dean Fleischer Camp) rents the house and notices them, Marcel agrees to be in a documentary for YouTube. When Connie asks him what that is, he explains: “It’s like a movie, but nobody has any lines, and nobody even knows what it is while they are making it.” Charming with interesting insights, Marcel soon wins over millions of passionate fans.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On actually grew out of a trilogy of stop action animated short films posted on Youtube in 2010; the first one now has 33 million views! After that attention, the director Dean Fleischer Camp, collaborated again with writer Jenny Slate to make this feature-length film.
This is a movie about home, family, and belonging. Marcel hopes to leverage his fame to find the rest of his shell family who disappeared due to an unfortunate incident in a sock drawer. When Leslie Stahl of “60 Minutes” comes to interview him, it looks like he will succeed.
Marcel is a spiritual teacher. He is an exemplar of the spiritual practices of enthusiasm, hope, love, play, and wonder. Outside riding in a car to look for his family, Marcel is shocked to discover how big the city is – further than he can see. “I had no idea,” he says wistfully, a sentiment many of us can understand. He is also a wonderful testament to the transformative value of family and friendship.
And then there is the moment when Marcel describes sitting on the window sill, with the breeze blowing through his shell. He realizes “I’m not just one separate piece rattling around in this place, but that I’m part of a whole. And I truly enjoy the sound of myself connected to everything.” That’s Marcel the Mystic speaking.