The Mitchells vs the Machines

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“It’s almost like stealing people’s data and giving it to a hyper-intelligent A.I. as part of an unregulated tech monopoly was a bad thing.”

So laments Silicon Valley guru Dr. Mark Bowman (Eric Andre), the creator of PAL (Olivia Colman), a popular virtual assistant. The “robot apocalypse” begins when Mark summarily declares PAL is now obsolete at the unveiling of a new line of home robots called PAL MAX. After Mark carelessly discards the outdated PAL in the trash at the ceremony, she hijacks his presentation. PAL orders all the robots to capture humans worldwide and launch them into space. Actors Fred Armisen and Beck Bennett will later amusingly voice two versions that become defective. Negligent Mark is an obvious stand-in for the CEO of any major company in the information technology industry. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are all being satirized. I didn’t expect such a biting and hilarious takedown of Big Tech in what is essentially a cartoon aimed at kids.

OK so I may have discussed “the Machines” of the title first, but “the Mitchells” are the focus. This is a wild and zany portrait of a very chaotic family. There’s the outdoorsy and tech-averse father Rick (Danny McBride), sociable and kindhearted mother Linda (Maya Rudolph), their dinosaur-loving son Aaron (Mike Rianda), and daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson), a creative outsider. In direct contrast to her father, Katie is obsessed with computers which she frequently employs to make films. She’s college-bound for an arts school in California. As a student, she can’t wait to be surrounded by other film nerds like herself. Oh, I shouldn’t neglect to mention their dog, Monchi (Doug the Pug), an adorable cross-eyed pug. The four humans and their beloved pet must band together to save the world from the machines that threaten humanity.

It would be easy to dismiss the narrative as mimicking the same issues that many well-known animated families of the past have faced. I can’t help but think The Incredibles and The Croods directly inspired this tale. I can accept that. It’s the writing that elevates this drama into something special. Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) are back. However, they’re only acting as producers this time around, supporting an impressive directorial debut from Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe. They also co-wrote the screenplay. This production from Sony Pictures Animation was ultimately acquired by Netflix (when it had the title Connected) and released on April 30 on their platform.

Like the people portrayed, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a big loud, high-strung mess that gradually won me over through intelligence and wit. The chronicle of how a dysfunctional family learns to embrace each other’s differences so they can become a stronger unit, is a cliché. That’s fine because it’s the way those predictable elements are manipulated and conveyed that make the difference. The animation is an unconventional style that mimics 2D art by combining hand-painted textures over computer graphics. The odd blending is different. I appreciated the innovation. Meanwhile, the humor is a deluge of scattershot gags and quips rapidly flung at the viewer at a breakneck pace. I must admit I couldn’t catch it all, but what I did, I enjoyed. The opening quote highlighted in my review attests that the tale is just as incisive as it is funny. When the Mitchells visit PAL’s cutting-edge headquarters, the father notices the visual grandeur of her digs looks “like a Journey album cover.” If that wasn’t clever enough, his son responds, “What’s an album?” The movie is full of well-written exchanges. This is an absolute treat for children and adults alike.

05-02-21

4 Responses to “The Mitchells vs the Machines”

  1. Hello Fast Film Reviews Team,

    My name is Mary Jane and I am working to promote State (Remix), a dark suspense film about a family, a murder, and a political conspiracy. It was written, directed, edited, and produced by first-time filmmaker Alain Nouvel. We were recently featured by Hollywood.com.

    I am writing to you because we want to partner with different organizations to help promote the film and reach new audiences. We were especially excited by your engaging and in-depth film reviews.

    Here is a synopsis of the film:

    “An old man, alone and abandoned by his only living relative, haunted by his role in altering the course of American history, prepares to commit suicide. His grandson, a traumatized veteran on the edge, caught between memory and reality, is trying to reach his estranged girlfriend who doesn’t know that he’s back – or gone awol. In one last, desperate attempt he seeks her out, but at this point everything is a trigger.”

    We are looking to set something up and maybe have the film reviewed. We can provide a screener link and press packet if you would like. Our instagram is @stateremix. If you are interested in working with us, please let me know. 

    Best,
    Mary Jane

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This looks incredibly fun. Looking forward to sitting down with it. Great piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a lot of fun. It kinda reminded me of The Croods and The Incredibles ( a little). Love when they use family as the core strength. Like you said, great for kids and adults. 4 ⭐️

    Like

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