Shellfish (USA, 2021)

An aspiring filmmaker finds himself in this feature film directorial debut of Disney video producer Hunter Hopewell.

For the past seven years, Keller Reid has been attempting time and time again to make a film. He has been getting help from his younger brother Bailey and his best friend and secret crush Harper. However, he has failed on numerous occasions and it has reached a point where his mother has grown tired and has tried to convince him to get a real job. However, Keller refuses to conform and when a major opportunity arises, he jumps at the chance.

When his film school learns a former graduate plans to donate money in a project made by his current class, Keller finds himself unable to work with anyone until he meets the eccentric Kruko. While Bailey helps Keller out, Harper is unavailable as she is going off to a college for an interview. Keller ends up bringing in Harper’s sister Angela and the story is set, mixing live-action and stop animation about a girl who goes underwater and discovers coral coming out of her limbs. However, Keller realizes that making this promo video for the donor is not going to be as easy as he hopes to be.

Hunter Hopewell, a video producer for Disney, definitely gives the viewer a Disney-esque feel with his feature film directorial debut. The Disney-like feel comes in the form of mixing live-action with stop motion animation in the same way we would see Hilary Duff talk to her animated alter ego on the Lizzie McGuire series from the Disney Channel back in the day. The formula works out pretty well, especially when we see Keller’s idea for his project come to life.

 Hopewell perhaps brought a sense of a semi-autobiography as he plays an aspiring film student who will go to great lengths to make sure the project is done, no matter what it takes. Hopewell also does very well in the lead role of Keller Reid. Hopewell brings this quirkiness to the role all while doing what he can to make sure the project gets done and deal with all of the obstacles that get in his way.

The supporting cast is just as great. While Samantha Joeckel does quite well with the chemistry as Harper, Keller’s best friend and secret crush, kudos really goes out to MacKenzie Amar as Bailey, Keller’s mute brother. We never learn why Bailey is the way he is. Perhaps he is supposed to be autistic or as we learn later in the movie, we do learn why Bailey is how why he’s become mute. Perry Bruno’s Kruko is extremely eccentric and a cross between Borat and Anchorman character Brian Fantana. Serenity Garcia’s Angela is Harper’s outgoing and attention-wanting sister who will do what it takes to get her fame and somehow finds an unexpected love interest in the film.

Shellfish is a possible semi-autobiographical look at a film student’s project and his relationships’ impact from the project. Hunter Hopewell does a great job with his feature film directorial debut and with its blend of live-action and stop motion animation, this is a story that should be checked out.

WFG RATING: A-

A Hunter Hopewell Film production. Director: Hunter Hopewell. Producers: Hunter Hopewell, James Hopewell, Phebe McCorkle, and Nadine Natividad. Writer: Hunter Hopewell. Cinematography: Joel Martinez. Editing: Hunter Hopewell.

Cast: Hunter Hopewell, Samantha Joeckel, MacKenzie Amar, Perry Bruno, Serenity Garcia.

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