REVIEW: ‘The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ Puts the ‘Fun’ in Dysfunctional

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The Mitchells vs. The Machines

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a Netflix Original Film, produced by Sony Pictures Animation. It is written and directed by Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, and produced by Christopher Lord and Phil Miller.  Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) feels increasingly disconnected from her father Rick (Danny McBride); he doesn’t understand why she has thrown herself into filmmaking and she chafes at his old-fashioned ways and aversion to technology. Attempting to salvage their relationship, Rick takes Katie, along with her dinosaur-obsessed brother (Rianda) and their mother Linda (Maya Rudolph). However, things go south when the A.I. PAL (Olivia Coleman) instigates a machine revolution, intending to launch humanity into space. The Mitchells must prevent the machine uprising while Katie and Rick work on repairing their bond.

Originally titled ConnectedThe Mitchells vs. The Machines wonderfully subverts the expectations of what audiences have come to expect from a film about machines going haywire. Most films often paint technology as inherently evil or “the problem with the world today,” failing to recognize that technology is merely a tool. The film acknowledges that technology can have a frightening overreach, as nearly everything trying to kill the Mitchells has a PAL chip in it. Yet it can be used in creative avenues such as filmmaking — which plays a role in the climax believe it or not. Miller and Lord have been involved in similar films that head off the beaten road, including The Lego Movie‘s subversion of the “chosen one” trope and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse‘s approach to the Spider-Man mythos; it’s great to see that Rianda and Rowe taking the same approach with this film.

In addition to how the film approaches the subject of technology, it also takes a new spin on the dysfunctional family. In addition to Katie and Rick’s fractured relationship, both Linda and Aaron have their own hang-ups. Linda worries that her family isn’t as close-knit as their neighbors the Poseys (played in a great bit of casting by John Legend and Chrissy Teigen) and Aaron flips around the Poseys’ daughter Abby (Charlene Yi) despite the fact that she’s the same age and shares his interest in dinosaurs. Even their dog Doug is a bit of an oddball; he’s cross-eyed and fails to heed even the most basic commands. Yet all their quirks end up working to their advantage as they battle the machines-even Doug, who turns out to be hilariously instrumental as the PAL robots can’t tell if he’s a dog, pig, or loaf of bread.

That last bit speaks to how funny this movie is; there’s a great volley of jokes, and they hit their target every time. The Mitchells are joined in their journey by a pair of malfunctioning PAL robots who name themselves Eric and DeborahBot 5000, voiced by Beck Bennett and Fred Armisen respectively. Eric and DeborahBot 5000 are the comedy gold of the film; their slow discovery of humanity leads to some utterly hilarious bits-including Eric declaring Linda to be his “mother” in the heat of battle. The funniest sequence in the film involves a giant Furby. Yes, there’s a giant Furby in this movie and it is equal parts funny and horrifying.

The driving force of the film remains Katie and Rick and how their different viewpoints in life end up working to their advantage. Rick’s survival skills help the Mitchell family avoid PAL’s robot soldiers and Katie’s crazy Jacobson and McBride do stellar voice work here; they sell the emotional highs and lows of what it’s like for family members to feel out of touch with each other as they grow older. As someone who went through something similar-it took a while for my Mom to come around on my journalism career-I felt every inch of this, especially in an early scene where Rick watches old home movies of himself and Katie. This is brilliantly juxtaposed with PAL, who only seeks to rid the Earth of humanity because she was discarded by her creator for being “obsolete”. The film was originally named Connected for a reason; that title speaks to the connections family has as well as the connections people can make or sever via technology.

Rianda and Rowe also do a stellar job with the animation here. A majority of the film features Katie’s drawings coming to life, which often express her inner thoughts and desires. When Rick tells her he canceled her flight to college and they’re going on a family road trip, a massive drawing of Katie screaming while an explosion goes off behind her rises up in the background. The film also cleverly incorporates Instagram filters, TikTok videos, and YouTube videos for a unique visual style, even adding to the humorous vibe. A recurring bit involving a howler monkey superimposed onto characters’ faces is a key example of this.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is another stellar entry from Sony Pictures Animation, exploring the connections between family and technology with heart and humor. Between this and Raya and the Last Dragon, this year’s animated films have been on a roll. If you enjoyed Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, you’ll definitely want to watch this film.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is currently available to stream on Netflix.

 

The Mitchells vs. The Machines
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is another stellar entry from Sony Pictures Animation, exploring the connections between family and technology with heart and humor. Between this and Raya and the Last Dragon, this year’s animated films have been on a roll. If you enjoyed Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, you’ll definitely want to watch this film.