THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES Review; "Astonishing Visuals, Some Great Gags, And Clever Social Commentary"
The Mitchells vs. The Machines hits Netflix this Friday, but what can you expect from this animated road trip from the producers of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? Check out our verdict right here...
The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a movie that could have quite easily passed us by, but with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller serving as producers, it's difficult not to be intrigued by the animated feature. Originally set for a theatrical release from Sony Pictures (where it was given the rather unimaginative title Connected), the name reverted to what the filmmakers intended when the movie was offloaded to Netflix, a platform that should help ensure it reaches an audience who will appreciate this unique and quirky tale about a robot apocalypse that puts the brakes on the Mitchells' cross-country road trip. As the world falls into dissaray, it’s up to them - the world’s weirdest family - to save the human race, and what follows is a zany adventure that takes full advantage of the jaw-dropping animation style we first saw in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Like that movie, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is packed full of clever ideas, imaginative uses of animation which are anything but the norm for the genre, and visuals that will make it difficult to tear your eyes off the screen during its (slightly overlong) two-hour runtime. However, what could have easily been an Into the Spider-Verse "ripoff" takes full advantage of that movie's style to do something new with it, and deliver plenty of laughs along the way. There's one montage, in particular, that is absolutely phenomenal.
The story of a father attempting to reconnect with his daughter is a familiar one, as is the way things often play out with that dynamic (he just doesn't get her...). That doesn't make it any less enjoyable to watch, of course, and the Mitchells are well-written enough by scribes Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe to get us invested in their unusual family dynamic. The robot apocalypse that ensues brings enough fresh ideas to the table to ensure it stands out from similar stories, but perhaps not enough to leave a lasting impact. It helps that they're all just so much fun to spend time with, though, and the idea of using today's technology to explore what that means to a family is both timely and a clever reflection of the impact being glued to the screens that surround us actually has. In that respect, The Mitchells vs. the Machines feels wholly unique, and the moments it incorporates that into the larger narrative are when this movie is at its best. How much of an impact do social media and the ways different generations view technology have on a family? As well as delivering a Vacation-style road trip, this adventure tackles that question and does a brilliant job of exploring it.
The voice cast is a mixed bag (at least in terms of the supporting characters), but mostly excellent. Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, and Maya Rudolph are all on top form, though director Mike Rianda's decision to cast himself as the youngest member of the family is one that doesn't work particularly well. His voice, and the character, end up sticking out like a sore thumb, though he has at least a few endearing moments. Olivia Colman isn't necessarily at her best here at the movie's antagonist, PAL, and we'd have liked to see her inject the role with a little more character. The standout, however, may be Doug the Pug as Monchi, the Mitchell family's pet dog. You will fall in love with this pig...loaf of bread...sorry, dog.
Ultimately, it is the visuals where The Mitchells vs. the Machines most impresses. You'll get a kick out of the better voice performances, and have a lot of fun with the story, but this is a movie that demands repeat viewings so you can catch all the clever little visual cues and gags that make it a legit contender for "Best Animated Feature" at next year's Academy Awards. It often has the feel of a Pixar movie, and there's something here for everyone; whether it's younger viewers who just want an action-packed ride or adults looking for the sort of humour and themes they can relate to, this is a road trip we'd happily take again.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines hits a few bumps in the road along the way, but overcomes that with astonishing visuals, some great gags, and clever social commentary on how technology can affect family life.