Few animated movies have resonated so well with people as Sony’s recent Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that when the producers of that movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, decided to produce a new animated movie that it was going to get some attention. And from the moment they dropped the first trailer what was at the time called Connected, I was hooked by the idea of what this movie had to offer.
After several delays due to Covid-19 and a new name once Netflix acquired the rights for the movie from Sony, has The Mitchells vs The Machines movie lived up to those lofty expectations under the direction of Mike Rianda? Well, it should go without saying that if you’re expecting this film to match one of the most iconic animation moves of recent times, then you are bound to be disappointed as it’s a different type of story entirely. If what you are looking for is a family story with imaginative animation, clever storytelling and large doses of fun, then The Mitchells vs The Machines should certainly be enough to entertain you and your family.
The movie follows the story of The Mitchells, a family that is out of sync with each other. Father Rick (Danny McBride), who is not a fan of technology, no longer understands his daughter Katie (Abbie Jacobsen) who is an avid amateur filmmaker with loads of talent and a love of social media. Katie is eager to attend film school to get away from her family, which Aaron (voiced by Rianda) is a socially awkward dinosaur nerd who struggles to connect with other people, and mother Linda (Maya Rudolph) who is trying to hold the family together while also battling severe envy towards those families who post social media screenshots of their perfect lives. Throw in the challenge of how technology is interfering with their lives and you have a family that most of us can relate to.
On a journey to try and reconnect with one another and travel across the country to drop their daughter off at college, the Mitchells encounter a massive robot uprising that pulls in most of humanity, leaving the family, who decided to ditch most of their devices during the trip, as the only people standing between the machines taking over and humanity regaining its freedom. With the help of two malfunctioning robots who kind of forget that the family is the enemy, of course. Cue plenty of ridiculous antics, opportunities for inspiring speeches, and plenty of humour, as things descend into craziness. And Furbies. Lots of Furbies, hellbent on sacrificing humanity for a dark harvest.
The film hits a lot of relatable points in its plot and the core characters are ones that you can really get behind. Combined with a strong blend of humour and heart, this is a movie that initially pulls you in, as you’re connected to the family and what they are going through in much the same way that humanity is connected to its technology. The story is helped by the fact that most of the writing early in the movie, by Rianda and co-writer Jeff Rowe.
And it’s not often that you get to say this, but the animation really is the highlight here. Not because the movie is necessarily bad, but rather because the animation quality overshadows the story, blending different styles of animation together and creating something that looks spectacular with lots of subtle details–there are a lot of little nods to many other franchises that you can spot if you pay attention–on display the whole time, which makes rewatching The Mitchells vs The Machines an absolute joy.
The movie though is not without issues though. When the story focuses on the core of the family, it is truly entertaining and insightful, but the whole motivation around the rogue AI, the many over-the-top scenes involving the family escaping the robots and indeed the film’s final climactic action scenes, can play out rather silly. The whole plot that the rogue AI comes up with is a little crazy and the robots are far too easily overcome by an element of silly humour, that is bound to make the kids laugh, but feels like it goes against the cleverness of the rest of the plot. It’s a film that doesn’t quite do its subject matter full justice, and even though it doesn’t quite land the story, it remains fun, and you have to at least give the writing credit of never losing sight of throwing fun ideas at you.
Outside of that silliness though the film remains entertaining throughout, the relatability and likeability of its characters means that you will still take delight from it after watching it several times. This is what you will be doing if you have kids, as they are bound to love it, even if for different reasons than you will. It doesn’t have the broad family appeal of a Pixar movie and is perhaps aimed towards a younger audience, but The Mitchells vs The Machines is certainly a worthwhile effort with a lot of heart, joy, and, of course, bleeding edge animation. It’s definitely worth a watch just for a visual treat.
Last Updated: May 10, 2021