A robot apocalypse has never been so fun, creative and sweet.
‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ may not be very promising as a title, and outside of Disney and Pixar, the original animations can be difficult to make an impression. However, if you decide to skip it on Netflix, you will miss out on one of the best movies of the year. And when you find out that Phil Lord and Chris Miller produced it, you probably won’t be surprised that it does.
While ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ was directed by Mike Rianda (who co-wrote it with Jeff Lowe), you can see Lord and Miller’s influence on everything. There’s the animation style reminiscent of ‘Spider-Man: A New Universe’, the meta humor of ‘The LEGO Movie, and the quirky, often silly inventiveness of its feature film debut’ Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. ‘
It proves to be a creative, fun and endearing mix that has true intergenerational appeal. It even features Olivia Colman as an evil virtual assistant, what more could you ask for?
‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ is exactly what you’d expect from that Ronseal-worthy title. It centers on an ordinary family found in the world’s last hope after humanity is enslaved by a robot uprising, led by the virtual assistant PAL.
For creative outsider Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobsen), the robopocalypse couldn’t have come at a worse time: She had just been accepted into her dream film school. Eager for the family to come together, her nature-loving father Rick (Danny McBride) decides to take the family on one last road trip to take Katie to film school.
Katie thinks it can’t get any worse, but then the robot uprising strikes and the technology that has given Katie a chance to escape from her family turns against her. The Mitchells soon find themselves battling smartphones, Roombas, and the evil Furbys as their old-school road trip turns into an epic quest for humanity’s survival.
Fortunately, the Mitchells have two friendly, but naive, robots on their side and their pug, Monchi. What could go wrong?
While it doesn’t use exactly the same comic-inspired style from the Spider-Man movie, ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ has its own original blend of 2D and 3D animation. It is used to define two colliding worlds of ordinary Mitchell life and the elegant world of robots, resulting in a visual invention that looks beautiful on screen.
Katie is a budding filmmaker, so she often herself ‘edits’ the film and adds her hand-drawn notes to the screen. Even if you disagreed with the story, the movie would be a captivating watch for stunning animation that is not only visually stunning, but is also packed with jokes and references that will reward future views.
However, ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ is not a case of style over substance. Mike Rianda and Jeff Lowe’s witty and keenly observant script feels relevant and timeless, portraying technology and tackling enduring issues of family and growth. There really is a character that everyone will be able to connect with, and you will likely see members of your own family in the rest of the Mitchell clan.
Rianda and Lowe’s real masterstroke was making the Mitchells an imperfect family. They are not the last hope for humanity because they are brilliant, they are the last hope purely by sheer luck.
They are all flawed, have no idea what they are doing, and feel like one of the most authentic on-screen families in quite some time. The movie’s message may be cheesy (family before tech), but it lands because the Mitchells are so easy to identify.
Of course, ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ is far from a hard-hitting domestic drama and a lot of weird, creative, and often downright stupid things take place on their journey to save the world.
For every scathing hack on our relationship with technology and how tech companies exploit it, there is a ridiculous extended sequence featuring demonic Furbys or a joke about the unique look of the scene robber Monchi (who you will instantly fall in love with). The movie’s gag rate is incredibly high, but even some of the silliest gags find their way into the plot later on.
Special recognition also has to go to the casting, until you get internet celebrity Doug the Pug to ‘voice’ Monchi. The Mitchells prove to be such an endearing family thanks to excellent voice work from Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Abbi Jacobson, and Rianda, and the real-life images of the cast with their own families during the credits are a nice touch.