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Review: The Mitchells vs. the Machines ★★★★

4 mins read

You’d be forgiven for not wanting to watch an apocalypse film after the year we’ve had. You would, however, be amiss to skip over The Mitchell’s vs the Machines. The film tells a sweet story of a broken father-daughter bond against the backdrop of the technology apocalypse, all while keeping you gleefully entertained.

Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is a quirky, misunderstood teenager with a passion for directing short films. As she prepares to leave home for university, her relationship with her technologically-stunted dad, Rick (Danny McBride), becomes even more fractured. In a last-ditch attempt to bond, Rick decides a family road trip is the best way to take Katie across the country.

Their trip is unexpectedly interrupted by the robot uprising. Led by AI Phone assistant PAL (Olivia Colman), the bots are fighting back against their mistreatment at the hands of humans and their creator Mark Bowman (it’s not very hard to guess which tech-giant he’s based on…).

After a series of luck-fueled moves, the Mitchell family evade capture and become humanities last chance at survival. Alongside their pug Monchi, they must find the kill code and free everyone before they’re shot into space.

The Mitchell Family: Rick, Katie, Linda, Michael, Monchi. Credit: robertebert.com

Following in the footsteps of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Mitchell’s vs the Machines creates a stylised world that defies the limitations of live-action. Instead of the comic book style of Spiderverse, the film favours a softer, hand-drawn feel. Beautiful watercolour-esque landscapes form the background while a clean, glitchy technique is applied to the evil robots created by PAL.

Fun little 2D illustrations pop up around the screen often – heart’s when Katies happy, dinosaurs for a raptor handshake and rainbows shooting out of the car as it drives away. These touches make it feel almost like Katie is the one directing and gives the film a homemade feel that works really well with the story.

Co-Writers/Directors Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe both previously worked on Gravity Falls, a kids show that was commended for its intergenerational appeal and quick humour – qualities that also make The Mitchell’s vs the Machines such a smash. Creating fun and engaging content that everyone in the family will enjoy is what sets some animations out from the rest, the success of films like The Lego Movie and Toy Story proves that.

The creators have tried to appeal to certain ages groups with references to iconic internet videos like Numa Numa. At times, it works, but there are moments that hit the wrong note, coming off as cringe and dated (would a teen girl in 2020 really include Nyan Cat in her videos? I think not). For a film about advanced technology, it seems like a missed opportunity to include more relevant references. Fortunately, this doesn’t detract from the quality of the film as a whole.

The Mitchell’s vs the Machines is an overwhelming success and has quickly become one of the best animated films released in years. As Netflix continues to compete with big names at award shows, having top-rated animations under their belt gives them an extra edge. Now, we just have to wait in anticipation to see what they do next.

Featured image credit: NBC News

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