Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Mitchells vs the Machines - Review

The duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have quickly made a name for themselves by taking what sounds like an odd, or even bad, idea on paper and turning it into absolute gold. They made the Jump Street and LEGO films work despite everything going against them, and their role in producing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse makes them a tandem to always pay attention to. In 2021, the pair have brought us the Mitchells, a dysfunctional family smack dab in the middle of the robot apocalypse.

Young Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) embarks on a road trip with her proud parents (Danny McBride & Maya Rudolph), younger brother (Michael Rianda) and beloved dog to start her first year at film school. But their plans to bond as a family soon get interrupted when the world's electronic devices come to life to stage an uprising. With help from two friendly robots (Fred Armisen & Beck Bennett), the Mitchells must now come together to save one another -- and the planet -- from the new technological revolution.

Like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Mitchells vs the Machines takes full advantage of its unconventional artistic style, presenting its clever ideas and fantastic sense of humor in a zany and imaginative fashion. This distinctive animation makes it nearly impossible to take your eyes off the screen, even when the runtime and story start to drag a bit near the end.

That’s not to say the story is bad, just conventional. The tale of a father trying to re-connect (no pun intended) with his daughter is a familiar one. It plays out precisely how one would expect, yet it doesn’t detract from the amusing and heartfelt journey to get there. The characters are well written enough, by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, that you become invested in their dynamic very quickly, regardless of the basic story outline. 

From amongst the voice cast there are a handful of standouts, and no truly weak links. Jacobson makes for a great quirky lead, and McBride is equally as suited for the technologically inept, protective father. But the true highlight, is the combination of Armisen and Bennett as the comic relief. A pair of malfunctioning robots whose introduction may be some of the funniest bits in the film, the two are a perfect pairing and bring even more laughs to the already hilarious family that’s been assembled. 

The Mitchells vs the Machines is actually Michael Rianda’s directorial debut, but you wouldn’t know it on first watch. The film moves with the same momentum and energy, beats with the unmistakable heart and soars to the same unimaginable heights of past Lord and Miller endeavors. It’s an apocalypse film with a family at its center that’s caving to its own normality long before they have to try and save humanity. They’re the ultimate underdogs, forced to become extraordinary in their own weird way.

The Mitchells vs the Machines comes to Netflix on April 30th.

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