Review Of “The Mitchells Vs. The Machines”

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Courtesy Photo from Netflix.

(L-R) Maya Rudolph, Abbi Jacobson, Michael Rianda and Danny McBride as the Mitchell family in “The Mitchells Vs. The Machines”, directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe. Netflix International, Columbia Pictures & Sony Pictures Animation (2021).

There are few filmmakers who are lucky enough to become famous for their creations. There’s even fewer in the world of animation. With so many talented artists and animators behind any one movie, it’s hard for any singular voice to stand out. Instead, we remember the studios that created them. Whether it’s Pixar, Dreamworks or Ghibli. 

That’s why Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the producing/writing duo behind “The Lego Movie” and “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” are such shining stand-outs. If you’ve seen one of their animated films, you likely recognize some of their trademarks. A totally unique, vibrant art style sets the backdrop for stories about ordinary, imperfect people who end up in the center of a fantastical, reality-bending conflict against a corporate villain with immense technological power at their fingertips. Zany jokes, big surprises, cheeky fan service and heart-felt moments ensue.

Also, if you’ve seen one of their films, chances are, you probably loved it. All of their animated films have been received positively by both critics and audiences. They’ve made both Oscar snubs and Oscar winners. It’s been an impressive streak of success and thankfully, without any doubts, “Mitchells Vs. The Machines” is their latest triumph. 

The film centers around the titular Mitchell family. There’s Linda, the always optimistic mom. Aaron, the dinosaur-obsessed son. Rick, the outdoorsy, brash-headed dad and finally, Katie, the eccentric teenage daughter who loves making movies.

Unfortunately, both Rick and Katie are growing apart, separated by an inability to connect with each other’s interests. This only gets worse when Rick sabotages her college plans and plans an impromptu road trip. Miraculously, this isn’t rock bottom. Rock bottom is when a voice assistant named PAL initiates the AI apocalypse. Now on the run from killer robots, the Mitchells must change and adapt if they want to survive as the last family standing. 

Abbi Jacobson as Katie Mitchell in “The Mitchells Vs. The Machines”, Directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe. Netflix International, Columbia Pictures & Sony Pictures Animation (2021). (Courtesy Photo from Netflix.)

Now this film, admittedly, can be a lot to handle from its very beginning. The stylistic choice of “Katie-Vision,” where sketchbook drawings and internet videos are literally drawn into the scenes, can be incredibly jarring for unexpected viewers. Same can be said for the film’s sentimentality. There are scenes that try to pull at your heartstrings before the first 30 minutes, and in a cynical mindset, it can feel manipulative. Just listen to the emotional piano music that plays over these moments, its intentions speak for themselves. 

Yet, if you stay along long enough to look past this, you’ll see a film firing on all cylinders. Every moment in the script, every twist and turn of the family’s journey, it all goes perfectly from this point forward. The comedy is laugh-out-loud, the emotional drama hits hard, the animation is graceful and gorgeous and every character’s quirk and goofy set-up has a payoff. Even the Mitchells, who are at the center of all of this, have the dynamics and dialogue of a family that’s known each other for ages before we ever meet them. Oh, forgot to mention, the writing’s really, really good.

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines”, not to say lightly, is a practically perfect film. Unfortunately, it’s a lot tougher to talk about perfect films than it is to talk about bad ones, so the review’s ending with this message. Watch this film. Watch it as soon as you can. Watch it especially if you’re a student who’s soon to leave home, you’ll likely get more out of it than you’d expect. It’s a cinematic rollercoaster in all the best ways, so you better prepare yourself for a fantastic ride.