THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES (NETFLIX) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: A quirky, dysfunctional family's road trip is upended when they find themselves in the middle of the robot apocalypse and suddenly become humanity’s unlikeliest last hope!
The highly in-demand creative duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs) brought a whole new graphical, comic book feel to the Academy Award award-winning animated feature, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Two years later, the guys are back again in yet another Sony animated feature, The Mitchells Vs. The Machines aka Connected.
Together with directors and writers Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe who have previously worked on Gravity Falls and Disenchantment, the team have produced an original feature that is highly imaginative in terms of visual and often filled with lots of energy and fun spirit. While it’s definitely not presented in 3D, it’s for sure on the level of eye-popping.
Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is a teenager obsessed with technology, animation and filmmaking. Her dad, Rick (Danny McBride) on the other hand is a technophobe who simply loves nature but doesn’t know how to communicate with her daughter. In a desperate attempt to “reconnect” with her daughter, Rick decides to drive Katie to college with Katie’s mother, Linda (Maya Rudolph) and her dinosaur-loving brother Aaron (Mike Rianda) in tow.
What they didn’t expect during the road trip is a robot apocalypse. A highly intelligent virtual assistant named PAL (Olivia Colman) has went rogue and she is ordering her armies of robots to capture all human beings and sending them to space. And now it’s up to the less than perfect Mitchells to save the world.
The number one obvious thing you notice about The Mitchells Vs. The Machines is how the animation differs from the ones from Disney/Pixar. The visual radiates with dazzlingly colours, has a style that is mixed with old-school animation and stop-motion. It also throws up lots of cute hand-drawn doodles especially for kids who love Captain Underpants and Dog Man. Unconventional is the closest word to describe it.
Because the animation is so spectacular, you might overlook the nice messages that the filmmakers intended to tell you that they practically kept it on a loop. For example, the lost bond and tough love between father and daughter over the years. Still, the movie has us rooting for the dysfunctional family at all times. There’s nothing like an apocalypse to show that that even a bickering family can defeat all obstacles to come together.
Notably, the movie has a supportive subtle message about LGBT if you have yet notice, Katie is “different” and is seeking the comfort of her own people. Even if the kids are too young to understand the deeper messages, the zany humour and giddy gags are enough to satisfy their entertainment needs. Look out for a gigantic Furby, the antics of Mitchells’ pudgy pug, Mochi and a pair of wacky robots, Eric (Beck Bennett) and Deborahbot 5000 (Fred Armisen).
For sure, we love The Mitchells Vs. The Machines for the animation and it’s constant poking at human beings’ over-reliance on technology. Definitely, it’s storytelling is far more wittier than today’s animated children movies despite running a bit long. By the way, someone should hire Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to run an animation studio.
Review by Linus Tee