‘Marcel the Shell With Shoes On’
Rent or buy on these platforms.
If you’re one of the millions of humans who were charmed by Marcel when he made his debut on YouTube 12 years ago, it’s time to introduce your kids to this tiny talking seashell who wears pink shoes, has a pet ball of lint named Alan, and is now lonesome and living in an Airbnb with his Italian seashell grandmother, Nana Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini).
The Oscar nominated film features Jenny Slate, who co-writes and voices Marcel, and Dean Fleischer Camp, who co-writes, directs and stars onscreen with the stop-motion shells. In the film, Marcel and Nana Connie have been left alone in the Airbnb after a human couple prone to shouting matches splits up and leaves the house. When we meet the pair, their entire family and community of shells has mysteriously disappeared along with the humans. Nana has “lost a small piece of a very large puzzle,” as Marcel puts it. She’s in the later stages of dementia, and the two of them entertain themselves by gardening, playing games and watching their favorite show, “60 Minutes.” Camp moves into the house after a breakup and befriends Marcel at a time when they’re both feeling a little lost.
The movie is about grief, loneliness and the importance of connection, so it might prove to be a bit cerebral and sorrowful for some children, but it’s definitely worth a try. After all, there are adorable talking shells, and they use hot dog buns as couches. If the kids won’t sit still for the full 90 minutes, maybe show it to them in little increments, bite sized, like Marcel.
‘Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow’
Stream it on Disney+.
Based on a forgotten treatment written by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl in 1968, “Turkey Hollow” was directed by Kirk R. Thatcher, an Emmy winner and longtime Muppets director and producer. It originally aired on Lifetime in 2015, and Disney+ is bringing it back this month. Henson’s family discovered the treatment, along with a box of puppets and some pitch materials, in his archives. The result is an updated version of the original vision — minus Jim Henson, of course.
The story is about a newly divorced father (Jay Harrington) who takes his children, Tim and Annie, to spend Thanksgiving at his Aunt Cly’s farm. Cly is played by Mary Steenburgen, who can elevate material with one syllable of her Southern drawl. Tim and Annie are frustrated by the lack of internet access on the remote farm — a plot point that would have seemed positively futuristic back in 1968 — so they head into the woods, where they discover hints that a giant monster called the Howling Hoodoo isn’t just local legend. They start tracking the monster, with the help of some new buddies named Squonk, Zorp, Burble and Thring. Meanwhile, the adults are enmeshed in illegal turkey scams, mild flirtations and rural squabbles. Will “Turkey Hollow” go down in history as one of Henson’s most brilliant creations? That’s a hard no. But it should entertain older toddlers who don’t mind a few mild monster scares or young children who may recognize some of the Muppet-ness of the creatures.
The Projectionist Chronicles the Awards Season
The Oscars aren’t until March, but the campaigns have begun. Kyle Buchanan is covering the films, personalities and events along the way.
- Meet the Newer, Bolder Michelle Williams: Why she made the surprising choice to skip the supporting actress category and run for best actress.
- Best-Actress Battle Royal: A banner crop of leading ladies like Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blanchett rule the Oscars’ deepest and most dynamic race.
- ‘Glass Onion’ and Rian Johnson: The director explains why he sold the “Knives Out” franchise to Netflix, and how he feels about its theatrical test.
- A Supporting-Actress Underdog: In “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” don’t discount the pivotal presence of Stephanie Hsu.
Stream it on Netflix.
If the history of the natural world had unfolded a little bit differently, Charles Darwin would have discovered some fluffy, talking, doughnut-shaped creatures called Flummels waddling around the Galápagos Islands. That’s the premise of this 2021 animated musical tale. It’s a film about extinction, time travel, courage and acceptance. It also features Terry Gross of “Fresh Air” as the voice of a ticking time bomb, a nod to any NPR-loving adults watching.
The main characters are Ed (voiced by Adam Devine) and Op (Rachel Bloom), Flummel siblings with very different approaches to life. Op is daring and tends to get into trouble; Ed is cautious and scared of pretty much everything. As the 150th Flummel Flower Festival approaches (complete with a Skrillex-looking Flummel D.J.), Op and Ed are cast out to a remote rock for causing trouble and forbidden from participating in the festival. When they try to redeem themselves by finding the island’s most beautiful flower, they instead discover a vibrant bloom that causes them to time travel to modern-day Shanghai, where they meet a little white dog named Clarance (Ken Jeong).
The rest of the plot zigzags from Antarctica to Machu Picchu to the Great Wall and back again. There are musical numbers performed by a Triceratops, a Tasmanian tiger, a dodo and a Macrauchenia all singing cheeky lyrics about extinction like, “You can kill time here or time will kill you out there!” The plot is loopy, but it’s tough to resist the charms of the voice cast, which includes Zazie Beetz, Catherine O’Hara, Reggie Watts and Henry Winkler.
‘Hotel Transylvania: Transformania’
Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.
“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania,” the fourth installment in the series, opens with a party to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the hotel and the retirement of Drac (voiced by Brian Hull). There’s raucous singing and Day-Glo monsters, but Drac is radiating bad vibes — he is not handling the transition to retirement gracefully.
The plot kicks off when Drac decides not to leave the hotel to his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), because it would also mean leaving it to his skater dude son-in-law, Johnny (Andy Samberg). Johnny convinces Van Helsing to use his monster ray to turn him into a dragon-like creature, in hopes that his new green, spiked physique will endear him to his father-in-law. Things go awry when the ray turns Drac into a bald, potbellied human. It’s a clever twist, revealing that for some, a dad bod and age spots are more terrifying than fangs and blood lust.
Human Drac and monster Johnny set off for South America in search of a crystal hidden in a cave that can reverse the transformation. There’s a sweet campfire scene where the two finally start to bond and Johnny gets deep about looking for the good in others, using a roasted marshmallow as his visual aid. Maybe it will inspire your child to think about optimism versus pessimism, or maybe it’ll just make them want a s’more.
‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’
Stream it on Netflix.
The Academy Award winner Javier Bardem playing a singing, dancing showman, with an animated crocodile as his partner? That was enough to get my attention. Although it’s not Bardem’s finest film, it does make me wish he could have collaborated with Fellini on a movie or two. Small children may not care about any of that, though, so if you’re looking for a silly, upbeat musical about a singing crocodile with stage fright (voiced by Shawn Mendes), stick around.
The live-action movie is based on the beloved book series by Bernard Waber. It tells the story of a boy named Josh who moves to New York with his parents (Scoot McNairy and Constance Wu), and discovers a large crocodile, the computer-generated Lyle, in the attic of his new home. Josh is a nervous child, and anyone who has moved to a new school or — scarier still — a new city, will likely relate to his worries and anxieties. Lyle helps Josh face his fears, and in turn he gets a buddy who defends him whenever humans say that crocodiles are dangerous.
Older kids might roll their eyes at the idea of a soft-shoeing animated reptile, but fans of the book series will probably be enchanted, as will children who love a good musical number that they can jump off the couch and dance to.