‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ & ‘Marcel the Shell With Shoes On’- Film Reviews

It’s been a while since I just did two reviews in one post. Since I spent my Monday catching a double feature of Where the Crawdads Sing and Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, I thought combining them would be a good idea. I originally planned to see the former since I volunteered to do my review over for The Film Yap, but I, fortunately, caught COVID and had to stay at home for an entire week. Feelin’ better, though. Which of these did I like more? Read about my thoughts on them…

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’

For many book readers out there, many were looking forward to the big screen adaptation of Delia Owen’s 2018 best-selling novel Where the Crawdads Sing. I had few expectations for this drama since I had never read the book, but producer Reese Witherspoon loved it so much that she and her Hello Sunshine company thought it would make for a lovely afternoon watch. But without knowing details retaining to this, I knew I would come out of this thinking this was one of the most lifeless movies I’d paid to see in a while.

The film follows Catherine Danielle “Kya” Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a young woman who lives in the North Carolina marshes, which has the townspeople calling her “The Marsh Girl.” Ever since her mother fled, the rest of her siblings left home, leaving her to live with her alcoholic and abusive father (an under-used Garret Dillahunt) until he left. Living alone, she sells mussels to make a little money. Kya isn’t the most educated since she never went to school and she is poor until she strikes up a relationship with a boy named Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith), who teaches her how to read and write while figuring out life on her own. But around the fall of 1969, the dead body of popular quarterback Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) was found in the marsh. Police captured Kya after feeling from them and made her the prime suspect for the murder that could damage her future.

Directed by Olivia Newman (First Match) and written by Beasts of the Southern Wild co-writer Lucy Alibar, this is one of those cases where I’ll believe anyone who said the book works better. If you can’t tell this was based on existing source material, then this also looks like one that’ll fit right in as a big-budget Hallmark movie of the week. How faithful this translation is or what changes they made wasn’t on my mind since I didn’t have any prior knowledge. I went in judging this on my terms for a film I know isn’t for the male demographic. However, after about 50 minutes, my level of interest slowly decreased in not caring about the blend of crossing your average coming-of-age romance and a courtroom drama. The mystery angle is wondering who killed Chase. Both of which were never as appealing in retrospect with its uneven tone. And this, of course, had to have a love triangle because it hasn’t been played out for over 15 years.

The sole reason I wanted to see this was for Daisy Edgar-Jones, whose presence is enough to keep watching this. Is she another celebrity crush of mine? Maybe. And she already gave a memorable impression on us all earlier this year in Fresh, so it was about time to see her lead a big film on her own. Her performance as Kya might’ve not been a fascinating character to be an absolute scene-stealer. Still, you care for her since people saw her as “different” and deal with her determination in marking her independence in the sense of innocence through the flashbacks of her childhood and how she discovers she’s an incredible drawer. Everybody else were quickly forgotten. David Strathairn wasn’t as bad as Kya’s defense attorney, who helps her prove she was innocent on this trial. Even the romance that’s supposed to spark with Tate and Chase was thinly written, making their respective chemistry bland. The minute you see Harris Dickinson lets you know he’s going to be the stereotypical douche, and Taylor John Smith (who looks a bit like my friend Nate I might add) wasn’t too good either as the boy next door who is seen as Kya’s first love before leaving for college.

Besides Edgar-Jones, the other positives I had were the beautiful cinematography Polly Morgan brought to bring out the realistic nature of the Louisiana locations in place of the marshlands. I wouldn’t mind walking around. A few CGI background shots were noticeable, but a nice-looking film overall. And the score by Mychael Danna gets the job done is being sweeping music to elevate a scene? Love Taylor Swift? Her new song “Caroline” was played over the end credits and I’d probably remember more than the actual movie. The pacing meanders a lot where I thought it felt longer than two hours. I had to check the time, only to realize 20 minutes were left, and that’s cause cutting to the past and present non-linear made it rushed. The time jumps didn’t make sense when the characters looked exactly the same.

Even the courtroom scenes made me think of better movies, though it’s the first to combine with a sappy Nicholas Sparks wannabe I won’t respect. The direction and the script had a hard time connecting to feel anything we had already seen before. But things finally got interesting in the last five minutes. At most, it will be more satisfying to the fans of the novel. The theater I went to probably did. And to no one’s surprise, I was the youngest person under 40 (and the only black guy too). This proves not every book that sells over 12 million copies will be a perfect translation into a movie. I didn’t hate it, but this is the definition of something you can wait till it hits On-Demand instead of driving out for a matinee price.

Where The Crawdads Sing proves Daisy Edgar-Jones is a leading actress with her compelling performance. It’s a shame this adaptation is completely flat. Just imagine a blend of a coming-of-age romance and an unimportant mystery without an emotional punch that didn’t do a great job of pulling me in.

Grade: [C]

Where the Crawdads Sing was released on July 15, 2022. Runtime: 125 Minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some violence including a sexual assault. Studio: Sony/ Columbia Pictures/ 3000 Pictures.

‘Marcel the Shell With Shoes On’

Everybody should put Marcel the Shell With Shoes On on their must-watch list in a year that hasn’t seen a ton of movies aimed at families. Premiering last year at the Telluride Film Festival and taking a while to play near me, A24’s first venture into family entertainment is based on the popular series of YouTube shorts from Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate. Before walking into the theater or watching the comforting trailer set to Phil Collins’s “Take Me Home,” I had never heard of the trilogy of shorts, which debuted online in 2010 and spun off two books. Making feature-length films based on shorts isn’t new, but can it be enough to span 3-4 minute videos into 90 minutes? You better believe it, since it’s made for the pure joy you’ll feel this summer.

Inside an Airbnb where documentary filmmaker Dean is staying after separating from his wife is where he discovers Marcel (voiced by Slate), a one-inch-tall anthropomorphic mollusk with pink shoes. He lives there with his grandmother Nani Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini). But unfortunately, there aren’t many shells like them since a couple who had left their home had accidentally taken away their family members and community. Dean decides to document Marcel in his day-to-day life and uploads them online, which gained an enormous amount of attention where it could help the shell find his long-lost family.

If Marcel the Shell With Shoes On doesn’t leave you with a lovely smile as you walk out of the after, something must be wrong with your soul because it’s one of those films that makes you appreciate the smallest moments of life. It’s incredible how unique it was making this with a straightforward narrative to get out of. From the start, you quickly become fascinated with the world Marcel and his grandmother live in, even though it’s our world of their size. Those who have previously watched the shorts will gain more application for this creation. From using a tennis ball as a way of transportation, using honey to climb onto the walls, or using two pieces of bread to make up a bed (a bread-room, anyone?), it’s all too creative to witness in a mockumentary easy to digest seeing what he does.

The blend of stop-motion animation mixed with the physical world was seamless since I bought this to translate better from the same technique used in the shorts. Giving the film this primary setting of this house without going full-on CGI made it feel close to home with how it originated. The screenplay from Camp, Slate, and Nick Paley wins for providing a large amount of great humor (visual gags, especially) that I couldn’t help but to laugh at. But also having profound moments of what it means for someone like Marcel to not give up on hope when it seems like we’re alone in our vast world. The events of him trying to search for the previous owners include driving around the city in search of any grey car. Marcel only has Connie as his closest family member, whose old age is dealing with the sad reality of dementia. Even though situations can become stressful, it’s easier to never look down on the smaller assets of life and take life in small steps.

Praise for the voice-over work is always in a task, and I couldn’t get over how perfect Jenny Slate was with her work as the titular character. Finally, a character so cute it’ll cure the saddest of days. She and Camp were together when they created this right after her only season of Saturday Night Live, after providing voices for Gidget in The Secret Life of Pets franchise and Tammy on Bob’s Burgers. She’s incredible throughout where I thought Marcel was a real creature we’re learning about, bringing that charm and warmth to find him caring through his journey. For many, this is an introduction to the childlike spirit of Marcel. And then there’s Isabella Rossellini as Connie as that endearment we all find in our grandparents that’s easy to get out of while voting talking snails with one eye. I also loved how Dean Fleischer-Camp is the man behind the camera, and his interactions with Marcel were too endearing to forget when they get to know each other quite a bit.

I couldn’t believe it was only 90 minutes when I would’ve loved to see 20 minutes more or even a sequel right away. It’s a very short dramedy where I felt a bit rushed in the last ten minutes. But that’s a minor nitpick in an overall fantastic film. You’ll get the laughs and a few spots of tears in your eyes that it can give us in a time still challenging to process. Elevating this short didn’t need to make up a villain or go overboard to be bombastic; all it did was to be this sweet, lighthearted romp to ease the troubles away. I actually watched the shorts when I got home while eating dinner and got a kick out of them. Though I’m let down there were only three. As of this review, Fleischer-Camp was announced as the director of Disney’s live-action remake of Lilo & Stitch. Watching this doesn’t convince me since they shouldn’t touch that underrated classic, but it provides a little promise. 

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is all kinds of marvelous from start to finish. Unfamiliar with the shorts, but it’s undoubtedly a funny and cute film for everyone who will automatically fall in love with the adorable Marcel. One of my favorites to come out this year.

Grade: [A-]

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On was released on June 24, 2022. Runtime: 90 Minutes. Rated PG for some suggestive material and thematic elements. Studio: A24.

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