Part feature film, part mockumentary, part stop-motion, and all heart, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is a delight, and one of the year’s finest movies.

It’s a whimsical look at belonging, loss, and how important it is to get your message out.

Director Dean Fleischer-Camp plays Dean, who is making a documentary about a little mollusk who, along with his Grandma Connie (voice of Isabella Rossellini) lives in an AirBnB where Dean is staying.

Marcel has one huge eye, a piece of pet lint he pulls along on a string, and endless curiosity about the world around him.

Once, Marcel tells Dean, there were a lot more of his shell community. Where have they gone? Can Marcel find his family again? Perhaps Dean can help him, Marcel reasons.

(from imdb.com)

He also needs some advice about Grandma Connie, who is different – more frail and less energetic – after she fell and cracked her shell.

Comedian Jenny Slate (who was married to Fleischer-Camp for a time) provides the voice for Marcel. She came up with the voice to make him laugh after she was fired from “Saturday Night Live.”

“Guess what I use to tie my skis to my car? A hair,” Marcel explains. “Guess what my skis are? Toenails from a male.”

There’s a magic here that’s undeniable. It’s fun to watch the inquisitive Marcel pepper Dean with questions. And it’s heartwarming to watch him look after Grandma Connie and to see them challenged, and often rewarded by, the huge universe that is the AirBnB.  

Also, I love the way real life, from the internet to television, plays a role in Marcel’s search for his family.

This isn’t a film that’s just for children. It’s for anyone who will appreciate the art of whimsical story-telling … and I think that’s just about everybody.

3 ½ stars

Running time: 90 minutes.

Rated: PG for adult themes.

Streaming on Vudu, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and YouTube.

Watch the trailer here.