The Mitchell’s vs. The Machines (2021) Movie Review

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve watched a new movie that’s just plain fun. And I guess I should’ve expected plain fun if this out-of-nowhere film is from the same people behind Into The Spiderverse and The Lego Movie. This is a Sony Pictures Animation movie, but The Lego Movie was a Warner Bros. production. Long story for clarity short, the producers of this film are the directors of that movie.

Okay, I’ll put the obvious out of the way: The title of this movie should really have switched its order of words. “The Machines vs. The Mitchell’s” is so much catchier. “The Mitchell’s vs. The Machines” is clunky and tongue-twisting. So anyway, the Mitchell family is the typical father, mother, daughter, son, and dog. And each is clearly the hero of their own story. We focus on the daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson), who has been accepted to a supercool film university in California. Then the focus is on the father Rick, who clearly not only has no interest in Katie’s movies she desperately tries to show off, but no confidence it will work out for her. We’ve also got the committed mother Linda (Maya Rudolph) and the younger brother in love with dinosaurs and certainly no girls Aaron (Mike Rianda, also the director) and their dog Monchi. I’m pretty sure he’s a pug, with a silly smile and eyes far apart. But his nose makes some technologies mistake him for a different animal when trying to scan and identify.

Meanwhile, I don’t know what year this movie is set in, but…oh wait, yes I do, it’s today, cause there are dates put down on the Mitchells’ cameras. Anyway, this is an alternate reality where we have a cell phone program out there with an actual artificial intelligence, and a Brainiac Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) whose company, PAL labs, invents robots who are supposed to make everyday tasks a thing of the past with promises of being your best friend on the side. Simultaneously, Rick decides if Katie must go off to college far away to a place that won’t open any proper doors, they can at least take her there as a family. So he sets up a road trip and cancels Katie’s flight, forcing her to go on this alternate route. But as they’re doing so…the robots go rogue, and guess which family of humans they weren’t able to capture?

So did I enjoy it? Well, for starters, it might be harder than you think to make a movie for the, quote, whole family, unquote. That would imply even a little kid scared of abnormal candy and a 50-year-old movie buff who doesn’t usually laugh at anything non-transgressive could enjoy this. And even if The Mitchells vs. The Machines is not a perfect film, it does succeed, a lot, at fitting the bill for every age group. There’s something for everyone here.

As you may expect from my love of the entertainment industry, I related to Katie instantly and I applauded her desire to head to school for film. While I studied Journalism and Communications in university, I do hope to one day work in the entertainment industry. And I was immediately against Rick constantly turning his blind eye, but the movie doesn’t completely antagonize him. We see how the two of them have a history of just refusing to see each other’s side and I couldn’t help but wonder if Rick once had a dream but the world demanded he not pursue it due to not having a stable income or whatever. Which brings me to one thing I’ll put out there off the bat. The movie could’ve benefitted from some more serious discussions between Katie and her dad to confront their division. When I saw Raya and the Last Dragon, I felt, as the grown-up 22-year-old I am, that the movie could’ve benefitted from being more angry, and I feel if there was a proper confrontation to discuss this dilemma, I think the movie could’ve been more hard-hitting. But it still hits decently nonetheless, and like The Lego Movie, this movie looks at the benefits and disadvantages of both sides of a conflict pretty fairly. I really like it when movies do that.

This movie is very modernized. And I was surprised by that. After The Emoji Movie, I didn’t think Sony would want to make another movie about how dependent this generation is to conveniences and memes. And even if the theme the filmmakers are going for is wacky, it occasionally gets out of hand with some overexaggeration about how domesticated and needy humans are with the internet. But the wackiness is still quite funny. What they’ve got going here is a bonanza of the Mitchell family outsmarting nuts and bolts. (By the way, Eric and Deborahbot are a scream. They were a clever addition to the film and I grew to like them really fast.) There’s a strategy Katie comes up with to get past an army of armed bots, and it’s very clever even in a time where it seems so many good ideas have been snatched. And there are several times where it doesn’t go the typical route, especially in the end climax. And I don’t know if the movie was going for this message, but I’ve always felt that our focuses on technology, on making cell phones better when they don’t need to be, and on the next big app, and the next big way to be convenienced, are just not where we should be focusing our efforts. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if that kind of effort was taken into renewable energy and climate protection. This movie sends the impression that yes, we’re focusing our technological efforts on the wrong things way too much.

The writers, producers, and director Mike Rianda had confidence in this story and they manage to make it into a good time. I can’t help but wonder if there are some families out there who see this and will think of taking a road trip themselves. Then again, maybe after this past year they might feel suffocated from themselves and desire a break. So therefore this movie might, even if it won’t convince them a road trip sounds swell, it will remind them that no, when things are normal again, they won’t need breaks being family.

If you like this, I’d try The Lego Movie and the flawed but overhated Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

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