Produced by Sony Pictures Animation; Streaming on Netflix
Running Time: 1 hour 53 minutes
Director: Michael Rianda
Cast: Abbi Jacobson, Maya Rudolph, Danny Mcbride, Michael Rianda, Olivia Colman
Plot: Katie Mitchell is about to leave for her dream college, when she gets roped into a road trip with her proud parents, younger brother, and beloved dog. But their plans to bond as a family soon get interrupted when the world’s electronic devices become sentient and stage an uprising. The Mitchells must now come together to save the world — and each other — from the robot revolution.
There’s no denying it: Sony Pictures Animation has hit a few rough patches over the years, from movies that are too bad to even write about (see: The Angry Bird Movie) to others that just make you wonder “why?” (see: The Emoji Movie). But the proverbial phoenix rises from the ashes with their latest release, The Mitchells VS The Machines, an energetic and heartwarming story about an imperfect family in the age of Instagram and Youtube.
If you look into the movie’s creative staff, it’s easy to see where its inspiration comes from. At its helm is Micheal Rianda, creative director and writer for Gravity Falls; while Phil Lord and Christopher Miller served as producers for the movie, hot off the heels from producing Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and before that, writing and directing Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and The Lego Movie.
The end result is a perfect amalgamation of Into The Spider-Verse‘s art style, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs‘ wacky plot elements, The Lego Movie‘s humour, and Gravity Falls‘ imperfect but loveable family. But don’t get me wrong: The Mitchells VS The Machines is not your average Frankenstein project.
What’s most remarkable about this movie is its animation. While Miles Morales web-swings through Into The Spider-Verse like a comic book come to life, the Mitchells’ world is made up of hand-drawn, watercolored backdrops reminiscent of children’s book illustrations. Then, there’s Katie-vision: 2D journal-like doodles that overlay the entire movie, whether it’s tiny bouncing rainbows or insanely detailed freeze frames to punctuate action scenes.
The contrast of its two art styles only emphasises the movie’s main conflict: the overprotective, technophobe dad VS the tech-savvy, artsy teen daughter. Where haven’t we seen that before? But The Mitchells VS The Machines tells this well-travelled trope with the utmost care and nuance. It helps that its characters and settings reflect present day, from the traditional but well-intentioned father who doesn’t own a smart phone, to the daughter who posts videos to Youtube as a way to escape.
The entire movie is a masterclass in pacing, cleanly slipping from serious plot point to hilarious quip without missing a beat. This comes through the clearest in its humour; fast-paced and cross-generational, poking fun at the differences between generations with a smattering of evergreen humour that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are so well-known for.
With so many competing elements at play, the robot apocalypse itself seemed to fall by the wayside — although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s something poetic about the juxtaposition between an intimate family dispute in the face of a literal robot attack, and it does fulfil its purpose as a plot device (albeit, an overused one.)
But ultimately, as with the best stories out there, it’s not the robots or the action that steals the show. It’s the way it makes you take a look back at your own life, and maybe give your parents a hug today. This one gets a 9/10 from me.
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