Friday, July 22, 2022

There's enough to say yes to 'NOPE,' but tiny 'Marcel' might fill your hearts

So, d'ya think Jordan Peele made the 130-minute movie called "NOPE" simply to hear someone actually shout, "Run, OJ, run!"?

Yeah, probably not, but it becomes one of a few standout horror/humorous moments in an oddball assortment of images, scenes and, just maybe, messages in another creative Peele effort that will make you both laugh out loud and squirm in your seats.

Best of all is the apparent Hollywood urban legend about a monkey going berserk during a sitcom performance, included because one of the film's pivotal characters is rather intimately involved. That bizarre episode earns screen time more than once, not to mention a hilarious discussion that recalls some classic, late-'90s "SNL" sketches featuring athletic comic Chris Kattan.

Writer/director Peele's main story, though, occasionally thrills with UFOs -- or at least what might be described as one huge white Stetson -- darting through enough beautiful California sky to keep scared steeds and cowboys focused on it before the whole shebang kinda runs out of power during a less-than-spectacular final half-hour. 

Oscar-winner and Peele favorite Daniel Kaluuya quietly and firmly stars in heading a quality cast as a horse wrangler/trainer trying to keep the family entertainment business alive after the early and neatly choreographed death of his renowned father (Keith David). 

His younger sister (Keke Palmer), who can light up the Hollywood BS meter with the best of them, a neighbor (Steven Yeun from "Minari") with a surprising flair for the Old West, and a wily old cinematographer (Michael Wincott), hired to shoot whatever it is up there, all contribute pieces that can help encourage positive feelings for the whole "NOPE" experience. Uh-huh.

Rated "R" by MPAA: language throughout and some violence/bloody images; 2:10; $ $ $ out of $5

There's really little to do with "Marcel the Shell With Shoes On," except embrace and adore this former YouTube short sensation-turned sweet little feature.

Whether filmmakers geared their project toward the Covid pandemic or not, the lonely adventures of the tiny mollusk sure seem that way in a creatively wholesome tale filled with sentiment, kindness, ever-surprising humor and family connections.

The latter element takes center stage since Marcel (exceptionally voiced by co-creator Jenny Slate) and his aging grandmother (a fab Isabella Rossellini) have been living alone ever since a mishap, the kind that only can happen to someone -- or something -- so small, separated them from the rest of the clan. (We're gently told it usually takes 20 shells to make a community.)

Most of the give and take unfolds in popular mockumentary form (think TV's "The Office" or "What We Do in The Shadows"), only with writer/director and co-creator Dean Fleischer-Camp doing the live-action interviewing of the animated subject (in stop-action) who spouts info such as, "I like myself and have a lot of other good qualities as well."

There might be some personal allusion, too, to the relationship between Fleischer-Camp and Slate, who married after making Marcel a literary and Internet star. They have since divorced. 

("Marcel the Shell With Shoes On" finally walks into a few northeast Ohio theaters today after testing the waters in some other cities for the last month or so.)

Rated "PG" by MPAA: some suggestive material and thematic elements; 1:28; $ $ $ $ out of $5

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