The Mitchells vs. The Machines unexpectedly comes hurtling directly out of left field hitting you square in the face (with a glove up and everything, imagine) in a good way. I’m sure Katie (Abbie Jacobson) would find a way to include that in her hit film series Dog Cop in some fashion. It’s a film we needed given the times we’re in as a society – on the cusp of returning back to normal life after being in a pandemic for well over a year. Of course, leave it to Netflix to provide zero marketing for their content (original or licensed) in which the word of mouth will hopefully be the best bet for everyone to happily discover this charming, animated feature. Director/Producer duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller strike again. If those two names sound remotely familiar it’s because they should be household names by now. They are the ones who gifted the world The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street & Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to name but a few.
The Mitchells vs The Machines is completely derivative in all the best ways and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Picture National Lampoon’s Vacation meeting an apocalyptic event in the likes of Mad Max or iRobot with the same stylistic animation of Spider-Verse. What more could you possibly ask for in a film? Not a lot to be honest. All the good that this film brings is enough to outweigh the minuscule negatives that may pop up. There aren’t many negatives to begin with either, Maybe a head scratcher here or there but with how much is happening on screen it’s easy to go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
Every frame has so much going on it’s impossible to keep up and catch every little detail that was added. It’s as if your brain was on a high dosed stimulant. Luckily, all the additional details compliment what the main focus of the story is.
One wouldn’t necessarily consider the Mitchell family a normal every day American family. Well, given the technological society we’re living in, the Mitchell’s fit right in, at least ¾’s of them. Besides that, they’re weird, wacky, dysfunctional and according to Katie, don’t have any strengths, just full of weaknesses. Katie is an aspiring filmmaker who feels like an outcast in her own home and in society. Her father, Rick (Danny McBride) not believing in her dream doesn’t help with the fact that Katie never wants to return home after leaving for college. Rick is against anything involving tech which puts further strain on their relationship. Linda (Maya Rudolph) does her best to keep the family together before it’s too late while being envious of the Posey family, and then there’s Aaron (Mike Rianda) the dinosaur loving younger brother. Don’t forget Monchi (Doug the Pug) he’s along for the cross-country trek too and the star of his own film saga.
Just like with Spider-Verse, The Mitchells vs. The Machines has a unique animation style. Blending a touch of live action, CGI and animation into one cohesive work of art gives a sense of familiarity that’s been done before but with how its applied to this universe – the stylistic choices pop off screen. Amidst the chaos running rampant, The Mitchells is visually gorgeous. Colors are clean and vibrant which in turn mimic the emotional highs and lows the family feels from scene to scene.
Family is the most pronounced theme in The Mitchells. It drives these characters development and motivations just like any family would. Co-writers and directors Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe constructed their script to be able to see events from each character’s point of view. The entertainment industry is one of the toughest industries to break into, I can attest to that firsthand. Rick being a realist, makes him not understand the passion and fire behind Katie to chase her dream – having a backup plan is never a bad idea. As soon as he watches a Dog Cop film, it’s in that moment that he truly believes in her. Katie is no doubt the backbone of the family, her identity is the focal point for her existence. It’s easy to put yourself in her shoes especially if you feel misunderstood. Life isn’t easy but believing in someone is and that’s all Katie needed from her father.
Aside from family, The Mitchells vs. The Machines takes a hard but comedic approach on societies dependence on technology. It’s an addiction and a hard one to crack. Likes, follows, retweets can control people which feeds into the addiction – bright screens can have lasting effects but if we get the attention than who cares. My guess, we aren’t that far off from a Dr. Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) creating a PAL (Olivia Coleman). She’s basically Siri with the murderous tendencies and army of robots at its disposal. Yes, technology is generational with which how it affects someone. Rick, to much reluctance, gets his family to put their phones down for 10 seconds and have a normal conversation (which is all just a blank staring contest); he also has a difficult time finding Katie’s YouTube page.
The voice talent from top to bottom is pretty solid, the characters relationships are felt immediately especially between Aaron and Katie. The brother/sister bond is portrayed in a special manner from their inside jokes to their deep conversations. Fred Armisen, Beck Bennet, Conan O’ Brien, & Blake Griffin lend their talents as the PAL robot minions with John Legend, Christy Teigan & Charlyne Yi as the rival Posey family.
Wi-Fi is the real villain here. Anything with an internet connection is a threat, including appliances. Carnage mode activated. Is it just me or are the thousands of Firby’s and one 10 foot one nightmare fuel inducing? No, not just me, cool.
Given how charmingly sweet and heart-warming this film is, the deeper messages aren’t lost. The connections to the characters are there since we can each identify as one of them. Ok, I guess not a lot of people are calling every single phone number in the yellow pages to talk about dinosaurs but still, believing in yourself and those who are closest to you matter the most in life. Protect those dreams at any cost and follow your heart wherever it goes. Even with a couple plot holes, the laugh-out-loud near cackling comedy and dialogue alone is enough to overlook them and not care that they’re there.
So, tell me, have you seen The Mitchells vs. The Machines and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is co-written & directed by Mike Rianda & Jeff Row is Rated PG and has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Mitchells vs. The Machines was released on April 30, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 53 minutes. The Mitchells vs. The Machines can be streamed on Netflix. 4.5 out of 5.