Predictably twee feature-length adaptation of the popular stop-motion shorts in which the titular character (voiced by cowriter Jenny Slate) delights a human interviewer (director/cowriter Dean Fleischer-Camp) with adorable details of his minuscule, minimalistic life. (Sample: "Guess what I use to tie my skis to my car? A hair.") Expanding the runtime to a tolerable 89 minutes, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On crafts a simple narrative in which Marcel hopes to find his long-lost family of homemade crafted characters – shells with googly eyes and otherwise. Rather than setting Marcel off on the stereotypical road trip, however, the film keeps him mostly housebound, using the Internet to reach out even as he deals with his sudden YouTube celebrity. Fortunately for Marcel and for the audience, his beloved granny, voiced by the always-welcome Isabella Rossellini, is there to add warmth and wisdom. Fleischer-Camp also serves as a semi-character.
Marcel isn't as cloying as you might expect – there's even an underlying misanthropy here that hints at Fleischer-Camp's exasperation with his own YouTube audience – but the material is not quite sustainable as a feature. The only really bad thing about it is Fleischer-Camp's constant laughter at Marcel's "kids say the darnedest things" insights. Since we know that he is literally chuckling at his and Slate's own dialogue, it comes off as stiff and contrived and it kept pulling me out of the film. And when the screenplay aims for some existential philosophy, it doesn't quite stick the landing. Still, Marcel is undeniably cute, and for those who just want a gentle, relaxing time at the movies, it delivers.