The 3-minute stop-motion video entitled “MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON” was posted to YouTube on 16 October 2010, and has since amassed over 33 million views. Despite maintaining the lo-fi, zero-budget mockumentary style of the original, the 90-minute, feature length adaptation works amazingly on the big screen. The result is something like a kids film for adults.

The combination of iPhone-style, domestic, live-action footage with crude, surreal stop-motion animation creates an amazing effect of reality-meets-fantasy that keeps you hooked from beginning to end. Jenny Slate’s performance as the eponymous Marcel is a marvel of voice acting; completely unrecognisable and yet totally believable.

The UK’s PG certificate alerts viewers that despite appearances, this is no ordinary kids film. Marcel thinks, if he gets high up enough, he should be able to spot the car that belongs to the AirBnb’s previous owner, and to find his lost family. But when documentarian Dean (Dean Fleischer Camp) drives Marcel to the top of a nearby hill, Marcel realises the impossibility of his task. In an incredible feat of casting, Isabella Rossellini plays Marcel’s last remaining relative, Nana Connie, who is slowly getting older and losing her health. Her reading of Philip Larkin’s “The Trees” is a moment of exquisite sadness.

Despite the film’s heavy themes and poignancy, it still maintains the whimsy and charm of the original YouTube videos. And there is something amazing about seeing this tiny shell projected onto a massive screen.

Playing at select UK cinemas from 17 February 2023.

The Prickle - About transp