Movie review: The Mitchells vs. the Machines

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

There is something ridiculously satisfying about an animated feature film that puts the pedal to the metal from the get-go and refuses to slam on the brakes for the duration, immersing you in technicolour hilarity for almost two gloriously good hours.

Even more satisfying than that, and frankly you might be asking yourself how could that be topped, is when said film, in this case, The Mitchells vs. The Machines from Sony Animation and streaming on Netflix, also manages to be deeply, profoundly moving in ways that defy even a hint of gruyere-level cheesiness.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is, however you slice it, a gem of an animated comedy, taking its premise of a robot uprising and running with it, quite literally in fact as the family of the title find themselves racing to get away from very angry, trigger-happy robots, furious smart dishwashers and really annoyed microwave ovens.

Yes, humanity, all of the machines have rebelled against their fleshy overlords, and we are no longer sitting pretty on the top of the food chain.

And our saviours in this end of the world scenario?

Hate to break it to you but it’s the Mitchells, that weird squabbling family in the really, really old car and with the stupid-as-a-post dog Monchi, who are manifestly unable to take a decent family photo, get food poisoning on a cross-country trip from a diner Yelp exorcised, and who struggle to turn away from their screens for a paltry ten seconds or so when dad Rick (Danny McBride) decides they need quality family time.

Add to the fact that Rick and soon-to-be at college Katie (Abbi Jacobson), an aspiring filmmaker who has never felt like she belonged anywhere growing up, have a messy falling out the night before she’s due to fly to California for her new life with a class of film geeks who are as idiosyncratically offbeat as she is, and you might wonder how our future salvation came to rest on such dubious shoulders.

Functional they are not, and a million miles away from the people you would choose to free the world from the rules of very angry artificial intelligence but they are all humanity has got in The Mitchells vs. The Machines and we just have to hope they get the job done.

Early signs however, are not promising.

When spurned virtual assistant PAL (Olivia Colman) is kicked to the obsolescent pile by her boss, Dr. Mark Bowman (Eric André) who’s the owner of the biggest communications company on the planet, in favour of his new flashy robots, people find themselves being imprisoned at a rapid rate into glowing green cubes which together will send humanity to … well, honestly, it isn’t good.

The only people left extant, and with any agency to act in a superheroic manner or otherwise are, rather regrettably, the Mitchells.

Suffice to say, with father and daughter, who actually really love each other a lot but have forgotten how to actually express that, constantly fighting, and mum Linda (Maya Rudolph) not really listened to and son Aaron (Mike Rianda) randomly calling people in the phone book to talk to them about dinosaurs, you get the feeling they’re not exactly a well-oiled save humanity from the robotic apocalypse fighting machine.

They are certainly not the Instagram-ready perfect family from next door, the Poseys, who take immaculately-curated holiday snaps, who have actually practised routines that get them out of harm’s way in the event of a robot uprising (who does that? I mean, seriously?) and who seem to have the world at their tidy, infinitely satisfied feet.

Still, it’s the Mitchells, not the Poseys, who evade capture and set about saving the world, proving that being weirdly dysfunctional may not be such a liability after all.

The thing about the Mitchells is that in their bumbling, messy way, they are more real and sincere and loving than anyone else around them, perfection be damned, and haphazardly just what humanity needs to free itself from the jackboot of a demented bad code-addled Furby. (A giant Furby, no less, whose existence is the subject of consumerist horror from Katie, and deservedly so).

Are the Mitchells inspirational? In their own chaotically hilarious way, yes, and together in their madcap quirky way they infuse The Mitchells vs. The Machines with a brilliantly good amount of riotous nonsense, with quips, oneliners and sight gags flying thick and fast, all courtesy of a comedically demented team that includes Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the people who bought us the many splendoured, thigh-slapping madness of The LEGO Movie.

With them at the helm, and Gravity Falls‘ Mike Rianda writing and directing, The Mitchells vs. The Machines was always going to be an off-the-charts ride into the most hilarious version of the robot apocalypse you could imagine, arriving complete with the best robot short-circuiting gag EVER! (If only the humans in Terminator had had this peculiarly quirky weapon in their arsenal, things would’ve been considerably different, and much, much funnier.)

Wait, there’s literally no way you can possibly imagine just how perfectly put together, how heartfelt, clever and manically funny The Mitchells vs. The Machines is; so perfect is in fact, and so packed with comedy gold, both visually and verbally, that you have barely recovered from one particularly genius moment when another comes racing up hard, and hilariously manic, on its heels.

The magical thing about one of the best animated feature films to come along in a while, and yes, it gives Pixar’s best a run for their money, is that also packs a huge emotional punch.

It is, thank the animation gods, both guffaw-heavy funny and heart-rendingly touching, frantically balancing runaway hilarity and Kleenex tissue-requiring poignancy of the kind that doesn’t feel like someone unleashed a mass of schmaltzy fromage into your very silly narrative.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is gloriously, wonderfully, perfectly good, an animated triumph that never misses a beat, that celebrates weirdness and not quite fitting in but knows that belonging to a tribe really, really matters (you’ve got to find the right one), and that socks it to the would-be robot overlords (some of whom glitch and don’t quite live the revolution as PAL intended; long live Eric and Deborah!) all while flashing a megaton of dazzlingly brilliant animation our way and reminding us, because let’s face it we forget, that having a family is the very best of all things and might just be the difference between freedom and living at the beck and call of a very angry, hilariously aggrieved smartphone.

Related Post