It can’t be an easy task trying to tell a story in an animated format, much less if you’re not under the Disney or Pixar roof. Both households guarantee commercial success. And even if the animation genre has no boundaries attached to it, it’s quite common to think all stories have already been told in cinema. So, yes, it can’t be an easy task. We feel almost proud of films like The Mitchells vs. The Machines. They’re easily accessible and are not part of some complex release scheme.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is proof that there’s something outside of Disney and its nostalgia subtext machine. The film is original, sweet and insanely funny. Best of all? It never takes itself too seriously, a forgetful trait we see in animated films too often. This is a safe bet for Netflix, and it could represent their next surefire Oscar nomination. Yes, it’s that good.
The Mitchells are a very dysfunctional family of four – five if you count the dog. They’re also very average. This is what motivates Katie (Abbi Jacobson), the teenage daughter of the family, to pursue a career in filmmaking so she can escape her family once and for all. Her whole life she’s been improving her talent, and now it’s time to go to film school in California. The night before her flight, her father Rick (Danny McBride) causes Katie’s laptop to break so he decides to cancel her flight and take her (and the family) to California personally. Needless to say, Katie freaks out over this road trip in the morning. But it’s the Mitchells’ last experience together, so she accepts.
Their trip, however, is interrupted. When they make a stop on the road, the Mitchells are witness to a machine uprising. The company that dominates the technological realm in the world (a marvellous wink at Apple and Amazon and why not, Disney) has failed in controlling their last invention. A robot that substitutes your cellphone, your computer, and every other device you carry with you at all times. A very aware A.I. has taken over the world and plans to eliminate us.
When the Mitchells decide to fight back, they become the heroes we didn’t know we needed. However, they can be our saviours if only they can solve their own issues.
This is a family adventure from every point of view. The film doesn’t attempt to go past its sitcom subtext of “family getting over common issues”. Nevertheless, it’s all about the method and mechanism. The Mitchells vs. The Machines is an explosion of intelligent winks at culture, nostalgia and some real insights. During the film, you will say “oh! This is definitely my mom”. The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a fun adventure whose self-awareness is an element we need today more than ever. The film’s hint at technology dependence is remarkably funny and direct.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is an animated film about a ridiculous set of characters fighting robots. But it felt all too real for me. Of course, I don’t think the film’s realistic. I just felt it spoke to me at all times; even though its plot feels silly at some point, we get a sense that the film is never ‘downgraded’ as a childish film. Its jokes worked (I had tears in my eyes when the father was trying to log onto an app), and the family’s dysfunctional approach was simply ‘down to earth’. I felt like calling my parents and telling them I missed them, and I don’t remember the last animated film that made me want to do that.
Director: Mike Rianda
Stars: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Mike Rianda, Olivia Colman, Eric Andre, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend
Runtime: 109 minutes