The Mitchells vs. The Machines film review (2021)

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is an absolute delight in every sense of the word. The animation is spectacular, it’s hilarious, the inspirations from other puns, memes, and sources of entertainment are present, but most importantly, it’s the characters and the emotional story you ultimately get behind.

Since the first trailer and the original title, Connected, I’ve been looking forward to this movie. Being that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are involved as producers, at this point, the filmmaking duo can do no wrong. I truly think 21 Jump Street and its sequel are two of the best comedies I’ve seen in the last 10 years. Plus, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is, without a doubt, one of the greatest superhero stories ever told on the big screen. Seeing the similarities in The Mitchells vs. The Machines in the trailers, such as the comic book like animation in certain scenes, the editing, and so on, it’s one I couldn’t ignore and I’m glad I didn’t. It’ll definitely end up in my top 10 movies of 2021 and I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t make the list.

From the beginning, I was already interested by the story it was set to tell because of how everything is introduced. The Mitchells vs. The Machines follows the Mitchells family, where you’re led to believe is an incredibly weird and awkward family, but the more time you spend with them, the more you realize they’re pretty normal. They just have their differences, like everyone else. Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is off to college and is anxious to leave her life behind and start something fresh and new. After an argument with her Dad, Rick Mitchell (Danny McBride) instead of letting her take a flight, he opts to go on a family road trip in a last ditch ever to salvage the great father-daughter relationship they once had.

However, things don’t go as planned after an intelligent AI system, PAL (Olivia Colman), goes haywire due to feeling betrayed by her creator. The Mitchells, who are now caught up in the middle of a war between humans and robots administered and created by PAL, they must do whatever they can to survive.

The way the story progresses is very clever and I never found myself having an issue with the pacing or how everything is being explained. Every story beat made sense to me and I felt engaged with every little plot detail throughout my watch. I will say, there are some glaring plot holes I noticed from time to time, but they weren’t anywhere close to enough to ruining the entire viewing experience. I feel it was more of an oversight rather than bad writing or direction since the whole movie proves this is masterful animation and storytelling.

As mentioned, it mostly focuses on the Mitchells, so the majority of the movie, you’re getting to know them and how each of them differ. There’s Katie, Rick, Linda (Maya Rudolph), and Aaron (Mike Rianda, who is also the director). The film does a phenomenal job representing these characters and the way they are. For example, Katie is incredibly ambitious and adventurous, but she also has a rebellious side because of certain interactions with her parents. Her father, Rick, doesn’t seem to understand who she is and why she’s so into her passions. In some ways, he finds them silly, and that’s where the conflict comes into play. The mother, Linda, mostly plays the voice of reason. She’s a bit wacky at times with her unique creations in the kitchen and everywhere else, really, but she’s also the one who’s trying the most to keep the family in tact. Lastly, there’s Aaron. He has a huge obsession with dinosaurs and has an unbreakable bond with Katie, his older sister. In my opinion, they portray your typical family since they’re all unique individuals with different likes, needs, and thoughts. But, they’re still a unit, and I think I can relate to that in some ways. At the end of the day, it’s family and no matter what happens, you have to stick together and find a way to make things work, regardless of disagreements.

Ultimately, it’s what the movie is all about. They’re a dysfunctional family in some ways, sure. They don’t always see eye to eye, they have different opinions and ways of doing things, and the way they want things to be don’t always work out. However, when you see the journey they go on and see how they come to realize everything isn’t what it seems, that’s where the true healing and reconciliation begins. Specifically speaking, the focus is mostly on Rick and Katie’s father-daughter relationship. They have certain ideas about one another and although some of them may be right, there are some that are also wrong. As they embark on the adventure you see in the movie, they learn things about each other they didn’t realize before. In a way, they were totally wrong about one another and once they both come to this conclusion, it’s when their bond flourishes. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Linda is the strongest one in the family. She’s always there to say the right things and keep everything in order. I mean, she’s the mother, so I can’t expect anything less. There’s also a certain scene where she goes absolutely ballistic on the robots and it’s simply epic. Lastly, for Aaron, I feel he’s the odd one out, but not in a bad way. As mentioned, he’s very close to Katie, so whenever she seems to be losing her way, he’s there to keep her in check and put everything into perspective. I can’t forget the family dog, Monchi. He’s a bit strange, but the Mitchells wouldn’t be the same without him. Like most families, there’s always a dog to keep everyone other and in unusual ways, he does exactly that.

There are other characters who don’t really have a big role in the film, but the ones who come somewhat close are PAL and two robots, Deborahbot 5000 and Eric, who are damaged PAL robots that eventually help the Mitchells. Colman as PAL was a bit menacing at times, if I’m being honest. The character was determined and relentless with what it wanted to accomplish, which made for an intriguing storyline throughout. The two damaged robots offered plenty of comedic relief in many scenes as well. It was great to see them helping the Mitchells in the middle of all the chaos.

Speaking on the animation, editing, and action sequences, it all combined to be a visual pleasure. The animation sort of reminded me of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in a variety of ways since some scenes feel like they were ripped straight out of a comic book. The editing was somewhat jarring at times, but mostly in a good way. There are only a few sequences that caught me off-guard, but not nearly enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Then comes the fighting scenes. Being that it’s a literal war between the robots trying to take over humanity, they mostly succeed. But, it’s the Mitchells and their bizarre cleverness, along with the help from the damaged bots, that really give the robots a run for their money. Plus, to reiterate, Linda really does go full Mom mode and beats them up a bit, which was awesome to see.

I have to address some of the comedic scenes. I found myself laughing so much in certain scenes. There’s a specific scene where Rick is trying to using technology and it really got to me since I relate to that in so many ways. Not that I’m not tech savvy, but I know quite a few people who are the complete opposite of that, so it really hit home. There are various other scenes that viewers will get a kick out of as well.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is the perfect film about family. I mean, not that it’s flawless, but I think it’s pretty close to it. Yeah, they’re a bit off at times and their differences cause problems in the relationships, but throughout the journey, you see how they all connect and start to really appreciate and understand one another. It’s definitely a story about healing and learning how to accept each other. Throw in some visually stunning animation and editing, along with some laughs along the way, and this may be the best animated film of the year. Actually, it may be one of the best films of the year, period.

Score: A

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