First, The Mitchells Vs. The Machines seems like it works from a checklist of the deadliest sins in american animation, compiled by a exhausted movie critic or a parent or both. The clichés pile up with abandon. There’s some wild, hyperbolic action, which of course slows down for a mandatory super-slow gag. There’s an explanatory narration from main character Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson), accompanying two different freeze frames (the record scratches are just implied) and a flashback to the hero’s adorably heartbreaking childhood years. Big Cartoon’s biggest departure from orthodoxy plays out, at first, like a sop for kids addicted to YouTube: the film accentuates its action with hand-drawn onscreen scribbles and pieces of multimedia, like needle drops for post-needle generation. Katie is even an aspiring YouTuber – though older audiences will be relieved to learn that she’s making movies with little brother Aaron (Michael Rianda) and the googly. family dog eyes, rather than unwrapping videos.
Katie loves her family, but is convinced that her father, Rick (Danny McBride), and her mother, Linda (Maya Rudolph), do not understand her aspirations for film school. And this is where the movie starts to move away from the family movie scriptwriting manual. While Linda’s cheerful peacemaking sounds familiar, the conflicts between Katie and her father are more nuanced. Rick isn’t exactly an angry, surly dad; it’s a kind of back-to-nature that comes from its technological woe and disinterest in the glow of smartphone screens honestly and happily. He whitewashes Katie’s plans at least in part out of a desire for her to formulate a practical safeguard. The film also strikes a delicate balance by gently implying that Katie’s quirk might be contributing to her outward status, even as her parents try to figure it out. Katie never says it out loud, let alone qualify a precise sexuality, but her pride flag pin and verbal allusions to “other reasons” why she doesn’t match add more realistic currents to her feelings of disconnection. of his pre-university life. (And unlike the vague Disney implications without a sequel, the film ultimately confirms Katie’s quirk with some casual dialogue.)
None of this would be groundbreaking in a PG-13 teen movie. In an animated comedy stuffed with gags on a bone coming to the life of Skynet and sending an army of robots to pull humanity off Earth, however, it’s pretty ambitious. No, The Mitchells Vs. The Machines doesn’t limit his screen-time observations to metaphors: as a synthetic score is constructed and the Mitchell’s embark on a final road trip to drop Katie off at college, a new line of robots- helpers rebel effectively against their masters. create an apocalypse (bloodless and family). By sheer luck, the Mitchell’s escape capture and become humanity’s last distant hope. When other humans are dispatched to the “Diamond of Infinite Subjugation” and rogue cartoon-relief robots voiced by SNL the elders become crucial to the plot, the lively Mitchell lineage becomes clearer: this is the latest work sponsored by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, architects of The Lego movies, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and Cloudy with a chance of meatballs.
Lord and Miller are just producers on The Mitchells Vs. The Machines, the feature debut by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, who previously worked on the beloved animated series Gravity Falls. (Rowe also wrote on Disenchantment, the fantasy comedy by Matt Groening which also stars Jacobson as a teenager at odds with his father.) Whether through experience or intuition, Rianda and Rowe clearly understand animated comedy from the inside; gags stretch and break as easily as family tensions.
These filmmakers are less self-referential and prankster than Lord and Miller, bringing great character gags to life like little Aaron methodically calling every number in the phone book, asking them if they’d like to talk about dinosaurs with him. But they share with their producers a way of reviving old gags; Against all odds, this movie features the funniest, best-timed groin kick this reviewer has seen in years, as well as a jaw-dropping streak, of cute things that got bad, that is already a trending classic after a few days on Netflix, where Sony sold the film after some pandemic release date reshuffles. While this will surely make the movie more accessible to family audiences right now, it’s a shame that Mitchells has been separated from its predecessors: the rapid-fire verbal and visual gags, paired with neat sci-fi design work, resemble an organic evolution of the dynamic Sony Animation style seen in the Cloudy films, as well as Hotel Transylvania series. (Yes Mitchells is not quite on the Spider-Verse level, well, what is it?)
In 30 minutes, the film completely reshaped its cartoon familiarity into something funny and touching; about 30 minutes from the pulled end, he starts to get a little pushy. In addition to solving the Katie / Rick story, Rianda and Rowe continue to throw in material positioning the Mitchell’s as the ultimate dysfunctional family of bonkers that no one expects to win, a storyline that is neither well developed nor particularly new (as always Simpsons did it!). If the film sometimes gives the impression that the famous Pixar-style “plussing” technique is put into overdrive, at least it’s some kind of open-hearted overdrive, full of genuine love for its goofy, bespectacled characters. . Despite the millions of dollars invested in animation from the major studios, to have someone turn out to be so sweet and fun, it could still count as a victory for the underdog.