The Mitchells vs The Machines

What happens when a family of odd balls come face to face with a robot uprising while on the worst road trip ever? A heartfelt and frenetic animated movie that I had a lot of fun with.

Katie Mitchell is an aspiring filmmaker who is leaving her quirky family to go to film school. After a dinnertime argument her dad, Rick Mitchell, decides to drive the entire family across the country to deliver Katie to school in a last ditch effort at family bonding. Along with the regular family road trip antics, a robot uprising takes place threatening to destroy not only the Mitchell family but all of humanity.

It took me a few minutes to get into this one. The wild energy and offbeat sense of humor felt a little too hyperactive in the opening minutes. Jokes come flying at you constantly. There are big visual gags that bend the verisimilitude of the film almost to the breaking point. We don’t get enough time establishing the world of the film before they’re already bending it with a constantly stream of gags.

I had to adjust my expectations for the film, but once I did I got totally swept up in the adventure and the rather heartfelt family story at the center of the film. Rick is lamenting the fact that he and Katie have grown apart over the years. Katie is angry that her father seems to make no effort to understand her. She makes all kinds of movies for YouTube and her technophobic father has never watched any of them. It’s a very relatable family dynamic, and the film commits fully to this relationship. It grounds the absurdities that follow. Those absurdities involve an army of robots that attack humanity after a smartphone feels spurned by her creator and decides to destroy all human life.

The movie has a wonderful sense of humor that made me laugh out loud many times. As a tech mogul unveils his army of robots the first thing he says is that they definitely won’t rise up against us just then they rise up against us. There’s a very funny moment where the evil smartphone unleashes her doomsday plan… she turns off the wifi. All over the world we see chaos reign because there is no wifi. My favorite moment involves a heard of Roombas as they ride in to attack, but are thwarted by a flight of stairs. It’s a very bit. The film has a lot of clever moments and genuine laughs.

Where it really succeeds though is the family story. This is a family that is genuinely weird and quirky. They are strongly defined characters and their relationships are really well developed. Their plight is very relatable and is played with deep sincerity. I had a strong emotional reaction to the climax of their story. It really works for me, and I think it will for you too.

Final note, I love the animation style here. It’s a combination of hand drawn and computer generated imagery that creates a unique look. It’s reminiscent of Into the Spiderverse from a few years ago, but it’s cranked up to eleven here.

There’s a lot to love in this goofy movie. I definitely think you and your family will get a lot out of it. There’s fun stuff for the parents and the kids. It is currently streaming on Netflix. Give it a chance.

It’s my cup of tea. A-

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