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(2022) (voices of Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp) (PG)

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Documentary style Dramedy: A tiny, childlike anthropomorphic seashell becomes an online sensation after a human documentary filmmaker begins posting his interviews with him.

Dean (voice of DEAN FLEISCHER-CAMP) is a documentary filmmaker whose marriage has ended, resulting in him renting an Airbnb house. There, he's surprised to find a tiny, childlike anthropomorphic seashell, Marcel (voice of JENNY SLATE) -- with one eye and wearing a pair of shoes -- living there with his grandmother, Connie (voice of ISABELLA ROSSELLINI).

Dean begins interviewing both of them, mainly focusing on the ever-resourceful Marcel who longs to find his family that was accidentally taken when the previous tenant dumped their shelter dresser drawer into his bag before leaving.

With Marcel becoming an Internet sensation after Dean posts videos of the interviews, the shell hopes that perhaps that will somehow help him find his missing family and friends.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10

Every ten years, the census is conducted in the U.S. to determine the overall national population and then narrowed down counts regarding states, cities, and counties, eventually down to households. But when it comes to living creatures living in one's household, such counting is way underreported, and I'm not even talking about the inclusion of pets.

An entomological survey done a few years back in homes in the Raleigh, NC area discovered that the average household has nearly one hundred species of insects not helping to pay the mortgage or rent, while the number of bacteria and viruses likely outnumber those significantly. Simply put, your domicile is never empty and, quite frankly, all of us are outnumbered.

And that doesn't include ghosts or little sentient creatures that live in the walls and under the floors. The former are usually represented in horror films, while the latter can appear in those, as well as fantasy flicks and comedies.

Perhaps the most famous are the stories of "The Borrowers," little people featured in Mary Norton's early 1950s work and subsequent sequels and TV and film adaptations who secretly live in homes and borrow small common household items that they use for other purposes in their daily lives.

Possibly inspired by that, writer/director Dean Fleischer-Camp and co-writer Jenny Slate created the 2010 stop-motion animated short film "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On." It centered on an anthropomorphic seashell -- with one eye, wearing shoes, and with a childlike yet also wiser than his years view of the world -- that ended up being interviewed by a documentary filmmaker (voiced by Fleischer-Camp).

I never saw it, but the short was a hit, created a cult following, and has now spawned a feature-length adaptation of the same name. Like the title characters in "The Borrowers," Marcel (voiced by Slate) uses everyday household items to get by and help care for his elderly grandmother (Isabella Rossellini) who are the only ones left of their family and friends in an Airbnb house where they've secretly lived.

By the time the story begins, Dean the filmmaker has moved into the rental house following his marriage ending and he's already met and is currently interviewing Marcel like it's no big thing -- and certainly not unusual -- that his subject is a talking seashell.

Marcel explains how he uses everyday items in the house as a means to his various ends, and in doing so subtly demonstrates his philosophy about life both as if through the eyes of a child and that of a far more seasoned adult soul. Both come into play when Marcel states he'd like to find his family and both he and that desire become a big thing online when Dean posts his footage.

Aside from the satire on those particular social media matters, it all plays out very much like a foreign art-house film and if that's your speed and you're looking for something quirky and quaint, you'll likely eat this up. I found much of it cute and occasionally funny, but it does end up feeling like a short that's been stretched and then some to meet feature-length requirements.

I imagine if I saw it again, my rating could drastically change in either direction, depending on my mood at the time. And, of course, I now know there will be lots of tiny, mostly hidden eyes watching alongside me. "Marcel the Shell With Shoes On" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 9, 2022 / Posted July 1, 2022

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