We don’t have nearly enough quirky family comedies that avoid talking down to kids. So many projects have forced exposition, clean morals, and easily digestible messes that do not accurately portray the human experience. The Mitchells vs. the Machines throws that playbook out of the window and gives us a well-acted family that could be reflective of your own modern experience.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines, at its heart, is a story between a father and a daughter slowly becoming estranged over time. The impetus? The dad (Rick) is an outdoorsman, and the daughter (Katie) loves technology. I assume that every single survivalist dad role is offered to Nick Offerman first, but Danny McBride does a fantastic job. Katie also has a loving mom (Linda) and an encouraging younger brother (Aaron), who play supporting roles.
“They’re a mess, but they’re a family” is basically the gist. Oh, but they need to discover this while a giant robot apocalypse is happening, sprung about by PAL: an AI voiced by Olivia Coleman. The more I start to roll out the plot points, the easier it is to sell people on watching this thing. The absurdity of it all does mostly play out in its favour. Everyone is up to the task, especially Beck Bennett and Fred Armisen: who play two “defective” robots that help the Mitchells fight back against the machines.
The script is witty, the jokes are outlandish, and the animation is fantastic. What Sony Pictures Animated has done here is extremely notable, as they are not afraid to make their characters look expressive, but they also incorporate many 2D animation styles into the work to marry the two, often clashing forms of the medium. Even if 2D is kept alive on a tertiary level like this, it is noticed and appreciated.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is just a fun film overall. We get to see the Mitchells grow, we care about them, the action scenes are a trip, and there is plenty of out-of-left-field surprises abound. It eschews the typical, let’s say, Pixar-Disney blueprint and just goes for it. While there are saccharine moments to behold in several family interactions, and the motivations of PAL aren’t quite as fleshed out; this plays out like a passion project from start to finish.
I had basically zero expectations for The Mitchells vs. the Machines and came out of it pleasantly surprised. There are a few genuinely touching moments that nearly anyone with any family dynamic can relate to, and the robot-filled premise is more than enough to justify its runtime and build out its lore. I wouldn’t mind another one of these with the same cast, to be honest.
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