Previously titled Connected, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is the latest offering from Sony Pictures Animation and the producing partners Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – the minds behind The LEGO Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. For this film, they serve as producers while Michael Rianda (Gravity Falls) directs and Jeff Rowe (Disenchantment) co-directs from a script they wrote together. The premise of the movie follows a family struggling to connect with each other who must face another challenge on top of it as they become the last folks left able to save the human race from robots intent on taking over the world. The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a charming blend of heartfelt family connection with a wildly fun action comedy twist in its robot apocalypse.
In The Mitchells vs. the Machines, the teenage Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is excited to leave for film school and finally find herself among like-minded people after feeling like an outsider both at school and around her parents, Rick (Danny McBride) and Linda (Maya Rudolph). In one last bid to bridge the gap between himself and his daughter, Rick decides the family will drive Katie to school in a cross-country road trip with their youngest Aaron (Rianda) and their pet pug Monchi. However, when PAL Labs founder Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) introduces new upgrade from the PAL virtual assistant (Olivia Colman), the smart robots go rogue and begin capturing humans to place into pods. With the help of two malfunctioning robots – Eric (Beck Bennett) and Deborahbot 5000 (Fred Armisen) – and against all odds, the Mitchells set out to save the world from PAL.
While The Mitchells vs. the Machines could have easily leaned more toward family drama or sci-fi action/comedy, the movie balances both aspects very well, ultimately because the stakes are the same and both are catastrophic. Certainly, if the robots are successful in capturing all the humans, the Mitchells have no future, but the rift between Katie and Rick is so severe that the family is already in danger of having no future together even if the apocalypse never happened. As a result, both storylines have equal importance because both are about the Mitchells saving their family, one from a threat to their dynamic and one from the outside. But The Mitchells vs. the Machines also balances out in terms of tone as the family drama offers a real emotional and heartfelt throughline while the robot apocalypse allows for some levity to the story. It gets a bit silly at times, but that works in the film’s favor, offsetting the otherwise serious story of the Mitchell family drifting apart.
In terms of the voice cast, the Mitchell family stars have the most heavy lifting to do, especially Jacobson and McBride as Katie and Rick, but they carry it well. Jacobson especially has to deliver plenty of expository dialogue as the film is told from her perspective, but it pairs well with the animation of the film to capture interest. Rudolph and Rianda round out the family, with all four capturing the tones of people who love each other but may not know how to show it. Other standouts of the cast include Colman as the PAL virtual assistant, who gets quite a lot of the comedic moments, and the actress has pitch-perfect delivery. Armisen and Bennett as the pair of malfunctioning robots are a delight, bringing more of the movie’s oddball humor to balance out the Mitchell family’s tension. It’s a strong cast that works well together.
Beyond the story and the characters, the strongest aspect of The Mitchells vs. the Machines is its animation style. Like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse before it, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is unafraid to add its own original visual flare. Since Katie is a prospective film student with a quirky sense of humor, that personality is brought to the movie itself, with cartoon style emotive additions or meta gags like “Katie” adding a screaming monkey over her dad’s face as she delivers an opening monologue introducing her family during an action-heavy sequence. These visual and animated additions help to establish not only Katie’s character but all the members of the Mitchell family, specifically through a lens that is Katie’s. It gives a uniqueness to The Mitchells vs. the Machines, setting it apart from all other animated movies, while also helping to establish character. This results in an incredibly fun and engaging animated film.
As such, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is undoubtedly worth a watch for families and anyone interested in animated films. Although Lord and Miller weren’t as involved in The Mitchells vs. the Machines as they were with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, LEGO Movie or Spider-Verse, fans of those films will still be captivated by this movie as it has a similar sense of humor. Rianda and Rowe have managed to create a film with a masterful blend of humor and heart with action/sci-fi/comedy, making for a memorable viewing experience. So anyone in need of a new movie to watch would do well with checking out The Mitchells vs. the Machines on Netflix.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines starts streaming on Netflix Friday, April 30th. It is 113 minutes long and rated PG for action and some language.
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