Review by Camden Ferrell
The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a new and original film that seems tailor made for today’s technological climate. This is the feature debut of director Michael Rianda and co-director Jeff Rowe. The movie is silly enough to satisfy younger viewers while also being full of surprisingly heartfelt moments to entertain viewers of all ages.
The Mitchells are an eccentric and dysfunctional family. The family embarks on a cross-country road trip when Katie, the daughter of the family, is about to leave home for film school. However, their plans change when they find themselves to be humanity’s last hope during a robot apocalypse. This is a road trip movie with a unique angle that gives the film a lot of personality and relatability in a smartphone era.
From the start, the film has a whimsical and child-like personality that is frantic and fast-paced. Even though the opening moments don’t stick the landing, the movie finds its footing quickly. It strikes a surprising balance between its frequent photoshop-style effects, physical humor, and family dynamics. It’s a brand of comedy that will mostly appeal to younger audiences but still has a handful of moments that are sure to elicit laughs from all ages.
The film is comprised of a rather talented cast. Abbi Jacobson leads the film as Katie, and she gives a quirky performance that is adequately zany. However, the real stand outs of the film are Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph who play the patriarch and matriarch of the family, respectively. They both deliver some great over the top performances that give the film an infectiously enjoyable personality.
One of the most notable things about this movie is how Rianda and Rowe’s script handles the family dynamics of the Mitchells. It does a great job of analyzing strained parental relationships, internalized resentment, and a longing for connection. None of it is deep, but its messages are packaged in a way that will make it accessible to children who are watching the film. The movie is silly and doesn’t take itself seriously most of the time, but it does manage to pack a fair emotional punch throughout.
Another enjoyable aspect of the movie is how it doubles down on the absurdity of its premise. It’s obvious that the writers, cast, and animators all had a lot of fun making the movie, and that’s evident in the enthusiasm in their work. The movie may be predictable and hit too many familiar beats, but it’s hard to deny that it’s enjoyable due to all the love that went into crafting it.
Even though there are a lot of things working in the film’s favor, it does suffer from a relatively long runtime and a final half that doesn’t quite match the quality of the first half. It doesn’t break new ground for the genre, but it’s a fun and unobjectionable animated film that has a big heart.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines could be the perfect excuse to put down your phones and spend time with your family. Kids will love it and adults might find themselves surprised with how mature it can be at times. It’s not perfect, but it serves as an escape to a quirky family road trip.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines is available on Netflix April 30.