Review: The Mitchells vs The Machines Is A Hilarious Family Comedy Where Tech Is The Villain
We’ll never know what the Phil Lord and Chris Miller directed Han Solo prequel would’ve looked like. As you can tell, it’s still a sore spot for me. However, the talented filmmakers have a brand new production releasing, and it’s easy to see why anything they’re involved in is hugely anticipated by fans. So when the duo get together, return to their wheelhouse of animated movies to produce a brand new, sensational looking adventure movie, it’s something to get excited about. And this The Mitchells vs The Machines review, will point out just how the movie blends outrageous comedy with beautiful storytelling.
A Family Comedy In The Age Of Screens
When things go downhill, super fast! | Image via Netflix.
The Mitchells vs The Machines is a wonderful new animated film that’s all about family. And unlike the Fast And Furious franchise, that sentiment is backed up by equally effective humor and outrageous action. Not to mention incredible writing that seamlessly blends some insanely amazing comedy along with quiet character moments.
The story starts with Rick Mitchell (Danny McBride) the family’s patriarch, who is having trouble connecting with his family. Namely, his college-aged daughter who he’s slowly become estranged with over the years. Blaming technology and screens, Rick is at a loss when it comes to how to reconnect with his daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson). It’s especially daunting seeing how Katie will be going away to college soon, which Rick definitely sees as losing her in the long run.
After a particularly tense moment during her last dinner before college, Rick really makes a mess of things. To make up for it, he forces the whole family to drive across the country to drop Katie off to college themselves. A notion that doesn’t thrill everyone else to much as much as it did Rick.
All Hell Breaks Loose When Siri Goes Rogue
Robot uprising in motion. But a still picture. | Image via Netflix.
While the family elements are the focus of this The Mitchells vs The Machines review, the backdrop of the story is so much fun. This family road trip to rekindle their relationship is framed against the backdrop of a Robot apocalypse. When a Siri-like artificial intelligence goes rogue, it causes an uprising of robots. Robots meant to serve mankind as a new product launch, end up doing the unthinkable. As the Mitchells try to survive one another, the robots round up and capture the rest of the humans in the world. So of course, it falls on this dysfunctional family to, basically, save the world. Not a big deal.
Comedy, Action, And Heart Warming Moments Are All Difficult To Achieve
Image via Netflix.
The heart of The Mitchells vs. The Machines is really the family story. An out-of-touch father trying really hard to connect with his young, quirky filmmaker daughter is the story. And surprisingly enough, having to work together, for the sake of humanity, is what might bring them together.
Rounding out the family is the supporting but helpless mom, Linda (Maya Rudolph), and oddball younger brother Aaron (director Michael Rianda). Not to mention a cross-eyed Pug, who is just as involved in the proceedings as the rest of the family. The family is honestly, ridiculous, outrageous and so incredibly funny. Linda and Aaron’s efforts to reunite the Rick and Katie is very sweet. While Katie tricking her dad into getting dog-kisses from their Pug, and filming it, is equally hilarious! But this The Mitchells vs The Machines review is so much more than the family-friendly, comedic, and action moments.
Separating Itself From The Pack
Katie’s film school application. | Image via Netflix.
The best part of The Mitchells vs The Machines is really the more emotional moments. The quieter, softer moments of reflection, sadness, and togetherness is really what makes this movie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie even as a hilarious look at technology going rogue and how berserk things can get on that front. In particular, some of the funnier moments come from two specific robots themselves.
But it’s when things get serious, that the movie really excels. Katie and Rick’s relationship is initially heartbreaking, and something very relatable to parents with kids of any age. The natural drifting away from one another and having to put in extra effort just to maintain a baseline relationship is something that will resonate with a lot of audience members. From both the parents’ and children’s perspectives.
The Deeper Symbolism Explained In This The Mitchells vs The Machines Review
Even robots can do the superhero landing. | Image via Netflix.
On the surface, The Mitchells vs The Machines is a super fun and hilarious family adventure movie. But there are so many layers at work here, that comment on very real-world issues. The movie is about a family literally fighting a threat caused by technology. Which is s great metaphor for how technology divides us, as often as it brings us closer together. On top of the regular growing apart that families fall victim to, The Mitchells also have to deal with how technology exacerbates the problem.
Reliance on screens, phones, and social media seems to have replaced the things that Rick enjoyed with his daughter. Even before the Robot apocalypse, Rick always pushed back against those aspects of their everyday lives. So in a sense, fighting robots was really the family fighting back against that dependence, and reclaiming themselves for one another.
Technology Isn’t Always The Villain Though
The Steve Jobs of this world. | Image via Netflix.
Despite this metaphor, The Mitchells vs. The Machines does present a more nuanced look at the influence of technology in the world. While Rick rails against the computer-literate, Katie uses it to better understand herself, her world and her purpose. There’s a great scene, which I’m sure has happened between every child and parent. Rick asks Katie to stop always recording their vacation and see the world through her own eyes. Katie responds by saying that through her screen is how she prefers to experience the world.
It’s a great moment, where the audience realizes that making movies, creating GIFs and videos with cat filters is how Katie fits herself into the world around her. Despite Rick not realizing that himself. And it’s something that has a great payout by the end of the movie. So while technology threatens the world, the more nuanced takeaway of The Mitchells vs. The Machines, is that what matters is how it’s used.
How Into The Spider-Verse Factors Into Mitchells Vs. The Machines
The faces of fear. Confused fear. | Image via Netflix.
One particular aspect of The Mitchells vs. The Machines is its animation style. Phil Lord and Chris Miller worked with Sony Pictures Animation by producing the Oscar-winning animated movie, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. The animation style of that movie was incredibly stunning as the visuals mimicked the classic look of old fashioned comic book pages.
Similarly, the aesthetic of The Mitchells vs. The Machines is just as gorgeous. It’s hard to tell from watching the movie if the animation style is computer-generated 3D graphics or hand-sculpted claymation. Certain sequences look gorgeous in the establishing wide shots, whereas close-ups of the characters feel too organic to be computer renders. It’s an innovative technique and style that lends a visual punch to an already great movie. Director Rianda does an incredible job of taking all these aspects of the movie, the story, heart, and visuals and turning into an enjoyable and memorable family entertainer.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines opens in select theatres on April 23 and will stream on Netflix starting April 30.
Feature image via Netflix.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.