23 million people can’t be wrong. I guess.
That’s the number of page views so far for YouTube's 2010 molluscan megahit Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, which stars a thumb-sized talking seashell with two feet, two shoes and one massive eyeball. I’ll admit, I was underwhelmed at first by Marcel’s breathy squeak of a voice and childlike non-sequiturs, but the little gastropod grows on you.
The videos (there is also a Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Two) are co-written by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp, and visually realized by Camp with rough-cut, dining table animation which is perfectly suited to the silly, time-filling shtick. A barely audible, off-camera Camp asks Marcel questions like, “What if you had a pen name?” To which Marcel replies, “I’d call myself Sheldon Conch.” Marcel does most of the talking, though, asking and answering his own questions like an excited five-year-old.
“Guess what I use as a beanbag chair?”
Slate supplies Marcel’s charming cheep without the aid of any special effects. She honed this skill — once demonstrated once on an episode of Conan — as a child growing up in a family of jokesters. Her Big Girl voice, along with the rest of her, is currently on view in the indie film Obvious Child (now at the Guild 45th Theater), a vulgar and labored rom com in which Slate comes off better as a dramatic actor than a comic.
Marcel, Two, made in 2011, has only 7 million hits, but it includes the best visual gag so far. While Marcel is perched somewhere on a laptop’s keyboard, the letter “z” spits out repeatedly on the screen behind him. He also delivers his most poetic line, “I looked at a diamond and it gave me a sunburn”, poignantly capturing the beauty and danger of his fragile existence.
There are no plans yet for a third installment, but Slate has packaged Marcel’s endearing epigrams into a picture book, available at the Seattle Public Library.
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Check out Rustin Thompson's latest film review, " 'Obvious Child,' a rom-com about the A-word."
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