Written by: Mike Rianda & Jeff Rowe
Starring: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Eric André, Olivia Colman
Bonds between parents and their children come in all shapes and sizes and differ greatly with each generation, especially the more we allow technology to control our lives. One thing that certainly never changes is where parents cannot fully grasp the lingo and newly realized hobbies of their children. The Mitchells vs. the Machines seeks to highlight this along with its hilarious comedy, incredibly touching familial moments, and a level of personality you just do not see in many movies.
Getting prepared to go to California for film school, Katie (Abbi Jacobson) constantly struggles to connect with her father who cannot comprehend why his daughter is choosing this path. With very different interests in life, they have lost the bond they once had and as Katie heads to college, it also coincides with a robot apocalypse where an uncontrolled artificial intelligence seeks revenge on humanity.
Animated features about families occur on a regular basis because of this medium’s tendency to lean towards family fare. Nearly every dynamic has been covered, meaning this feature does not necessarily bring anything new in the grand scheme, but the level of bonkers personality it puts on display with its lovely characters allows it to surpass everything else around it. The way this feature just simply goes for it, but most importantly, embraces its weirdness in an unironic manner makes it feel special. It comes with so many little details to tease out and extrapolate on, which eventually either caused laughter or some genuine tears.
Katie and her dad Rick (Danny McBride) represent the typical father-daughter relationship where the young woman no longer represents being his “little girl.” She now has a fully-realized personality and the risk that comes with it not vibing with her father, which becomes the case here. Rick loves the outdoors and hates technology, while Katie swims in it making short films and hoping to pursue this as a career. As the gulf between them continually grew throughout the years, this film gives them the chance to gain a perspective about the other they have never seen, and the moments of beautiful connection they share, as a result, come together in an emotionally resonant manner. It just appears it took a robot apocalypse in order for it to occur.
Undoubtedly, The Mitchells vs. the Machines has plenty to say about technology and the way it has a certain level of control in our lives, almost to an absurd degree. I mean, it’s referenced in the title of the feature, but this approach to technology comes in a multi-faceted manner. It speaks on how it impacts people on an individual way and then on a global scale, as the apocalypse begins. As strange as it may be to believe in the possibility of the apocalypse led by artificial intelligence and robots, this film certainly makes a compelling case.
On the micro level, scenes between the Mitchells family show the incredibly accurate way in which people cannot simply stay off their phones to have any sort of conversation with others. This gets specifically called out when Rick pleads with his family to put away their devices at the dinner table for a mere few seconds to see if it would be possible on top of some eye contact. The ensuing scene captures the brutal reality of how difficult it is for people of this era to just be in the moment and spend time with others around them with this technological addiction. The scariest part of it comes from how it accurately portrays people like me where phones and other devices become the first things we pull out of our pockets whenever we have downtime. When waiting in line, I pull out my phone. When bored throughout the day, I just pull out my phone and read something on social media. Whenever I need to get work done but continually get distracted by my phone, it gets to the point where it gets stored away somewhere meaning extra effort needs to be exerted in order to access it. Truly a terrible addiction and one this feature pokes fun at it numerous ways, but the more searing criticism this feature has comes from its view of these tech geniuses.
Obviously, in our current times, attention continually gravitates towards these individuals trying to advance humanity and make a pretty penny at the same time. Mark Bowman (Eric André) represents this figure in the film as his creation ends up taking over the world in essentially hacking all robots and technological devices to turn it against humans. In the film’s portrayal of this character, they poke fun at these tech gurus and the feeling of disability they have not only for fellow humans, but the very technology they sink all of their resources in developing. In the end, it results in a takeover by an aggrieved program.
Filled with boisterous humor, the amount of heart this film has would be even too much for the Grinch to handle. Several occasions may have caused some tears to form in the ocular ducts because it remains a story about Katie and her father. From looking at old tapes and other vehicles to show what both think of each other, it demonstrates the amount of love these two have. Each of them has entered a different place in their life but that does not mean they have to leave behind a beautiful bond they hold. This remains the beating heart of the feature and the degree to which it all comes together demonstrates these filmmakers know exactly what they’re doing.
Frantic with its pacing, beautifully animated as Sony continues to prove they have their own distinct style, this feature really has it all. Humor that will hit all four quadrants but also so many heartwarming moments that will make you think of your loved ones. The amount of uniqueness makes this feature like nothing else out there, which comes from the film’s distinct lack of shame of simply going for it. The narrative decides to go completely bananas and those who vibe with it will have a tremendously fun time, just like I did.