The Mitchells vs. The Machines (MOVIE REVIEW)
Runtime: 113 Minutes
Director: Mike Rianda
Cast: Danny McBride, Abbi Jacobson, Maya Rudolph, Eric Andre, Olivia Colman
Families are a thing all of us have experiences with in one way or another in our lives. Whether familial, adoptive or in strong friendship groups, they shape us into the people we are today in more subtle ways that most would believe. So when we get older, desire more independence and move on to brand new milestones in our lives, what does that mean for the parents who might find difficulties in one leaving the nest? That answer and more family based mayhem is displayed in Mike Rianda’s modern comedy classic, The Mitchells vs The Machines. Being the latest film produced under Phil Lord and Chris Miller following Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, this film takes similar inspiration not only in taking CGI to new lengths with a nice newspaper comic-like art style, but also finding the sincere heart in an otherwise unorthodox story.
As the title implies, the film follows a family named the Mitchells. More in particular, Katie Mitchell: a young adult woman with a deep passion for film who is about to go off to film school in LA, much to the fear and concern of her father, Rick. When he decides he wants to make amends with her before she takes her next big step in life, he takes the entire family on a road trip to LA to bond and enjoy life. The only thing standing in their way is that they become the only people left amidst a giant robot apocalypse and have to work together to save the world.
The Mitchells vs The Machines is such an oddball movie. Not necessarily because we haven’t seen a story like this done before (A Goofy Movie clearly feels like an inspiration for this film), but more how the film takes such a drastic turn when around a third of the way into it, it becomes a big robot apocalypse movie full of androids, artificially intelligent household appliances, and Olivia Colman hamming it up as an evil smartphone hell bent on world domination. This film just based on concept could have been a tonal mess, but The Mitchells vs The Machines’ biggest strength is mostly how it uses the apocalypse as an allegory for its story. The film is basically a huge unapologetic love letter to families, warts and all. It’s about a family who is slowly drifting apart mainly due to the oldest sibling leaving off for college, but in being thrust into the cusp of a giant worldwide travesty, they learn to love and appreciate one another again by saving the world. Even down to the animation where most of the characters and locations have a handcrafted and painterly look and the PAL Robots go for a way more simple, sleek and modern aesthetic to display their perceived “perfection”, the film gives off an inspiring message about how we can love our families despite all the flaws that come with us. Even when taking on something perhaps too difficult to conquer, it’s in their unique quirks and slight dysfunctionality as a family that keeps them motivated to move forward. It’s not just like that in terms of the plot but also in its characters. Katie Mitchell is an aspiring filmmaker who is excited to finally go to her dream college, but in a lot of ways it’s to get away from her family and in this case, her dad, Rick. The two starting out in the film don’t seem to get along together and that is mainly down to them not really connecting that much as a family unit. Katie is an energetic and quirky girl who is deeply passionate, but not entirely toward her dad, and Rick is a loving and well meaning dad who tries his best to connect with his daughter, but not exactly in the right way. They are both very nice but ultimately very flawed individuals and seeing their journey to grow and learn to love each other again is where so much of the heart comes in. Part of this credit goes to the amazing score by Mark Mothersbaugh, but one area of this film that was quite unexpected was with the heart. With the strong message about loving and embracing families, there are some moments in the picture where some audiences might go quite teary-eyed. There are plenty of moments in the film where the conversations and character dynamics felt scarily real to some actual conversations about life, so watching a film like this with your family or other loved ones might make for the best experience.
But while The Mitchells vs The Machines works brilliantly when it’s focused squarely on the family dynamics, the movies main issues mostly stem from the robot apocalypse angle. Like stated before, the apocalypse side of the story serves as a solid allegory for the families to embrace their imperfections when going against actual perfection, but in other ways it’s where some sides of the story get disconnected from the true heart of the overall picture. In a way, PAL Laboratories in the film serves as a unique commentary on how people nowadays perhaps rely too much on their technology as a way to get by, and that acts as the brutal motivation behind the film’s villain, PAL. Olivia Colman’s delightfully silly evil smartphone antagonist definitely provides a lot of good laughs, but at the same time she feels a bit disconnected from where much of the film’s real heart lies in the family. Both of these clashing styles are so different from one another but where the meshing of those ideas work is mostly in favour of the family rather than the big technology allegory. It’s not quite as informative or deep as it thinks it is with this angle on technology and though it’s absolutely no deal breaker on the film, it’s easily the least interesting part of the story just based around pure themes and subject matter.
The Mitchells vs the Machines is a great family comedy. Not only for being an absolutely hysterical riot providing constant belly laughs from beginning to end, but also in how it uses its message of family to tell a thought provoking and surprisingly heartfelt story. As the road trip narrative implies, much of the film’s message and charm comes from the journey and less from the destination. Turning this movie into a Terminator-esque robot apocalypse movie does derail a bit of the film’s levity, but even that isn’t without some solid commentary on technology and a very entertaining villain. The best way to experience The Mitchells is with loved ones more than anything as that is where much of this movie’s emotional core lies, but even with that taken out of the equation, what’s here is simply put a very fun and quirkily animated romp.
FINAL RATING:- 8/10 (GREAT)