Movie Review: The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021) - An hilarious, spirited Netflix animation flick
Pros and Cons of a road trip with your family.
Pro: Spending quality time together while listening to a playlist full of nostalgic tunes that bring back fond memories of past road trips.
Con: Trapped together in a single space for hours on end.
Pro: Driving at dangerously high speeds to avoid clusters of trucks zigzagging across lanes.
Con: One terrible fart breaking even the most optimistic of travelers.
Pro: Making additional stops on the way for great photo opportunities, like my mother wanting to capture every tree along the roadside.
Con: One shallow pothole disrupting even the most restful periods of sleep.
In the new animated Netflix road trip film The Mitchells vs. the Machines, the title family travels together to drop the eldest daughter off at a film school in California but first must fight an army of robots capturing humans across the world. It's a searingly funny commentary on the current world of technology and our dependence on devices for answers, companionship, and assistance. This family enters the car with a myriad of emotions spilling out the windows, and at the film's conclusion, there is nothing they want more than to do it all over again.
Originally scheduled for a theatrical release through Sony Pictures Animation, the film instead landed within the sharp clutches of Netflix. Produced by Lego Movie creatives Phil Lord & Chris Miller and directed by Michael Rianda in his directorial debut, The Mitchells vs. The Machines makes an excellent case for animation competing against the likes of Pixar. Not only is there gag after gag, but the entire film feels modern against its 80's inspirations. Original is in its social media culture design and led by a fantastic voice cast, including Danny McBride, Olivia Colman, Maya Rudolph, and Broad City's Abbi Jacobson, The Mitchells vs. The Machines will surprise you all the way to its final, heart-warming moments.
Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is accepted into a film school after her popular videos featuring her pug Monchi go viral. Her father, Rick (Danny McBride), is quite the opposite, technologically incapable, and can't seem to understand how this will lead Katie to a lucrative career. As Rick tries to spend the last few precious moments with Katie, he doesn't know how to express himself and is more likely to appeal to Katie through his own joys, such as items from his toolbox (literally). After a big fight during their final dinner with mum Linda (Maya Rudolph) and Katie's brother Aaron (Michael Rianda), Rick decides to cash in Katie's plane ticket to California and instead drive across the country together as a family.
However, as the Mitchells embark on their road trip, tech genius Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) introduces a robot update to his popular Siri-like assistant creation, PAL (Olivia Colman). Not wanting to be replaced, PAL reconfigures the calibrations of the bots and orders them to kidnap humans worldwide. And guess who are the only people on Earth who have not been captured? Yep… it's the Mitchells!
Foolishly, I had the expectation that this film would turn into an Incredibles-like situation with the family developing superpowers, but how wrong I was. Instead, the Mitchells get on with it, building team spirit and memories to last a lifetime. Watching the family hilariously unite to stay alive and put an end to PAL's reign is extraordinarily engaging. The characters each feel individualized and have their moments of bonding and hilarity. All the while, Katie is filming their survival and creating new videos, thereby proving to her dad how capable and talented she is.
The script is fantastically realized by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, particularly with their unrelenting gags using the adorable Monchi. With additional voices for two defunct robots by Fred Armisen and Beck Bennett, the entire cast add incredible personality to their characters, making them feel fully realized.
You'll be pleased to spend an afternoon with the Mitchells.
Now available to stream on Netflix.