Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) can’t wait to start college, having been accepted into the film school of her dreams. But her dad Rick (Danny McBride), who is less than enthused about Katie’s ambitions, decides that before she’s off, they should have the ultimate family road trip. So Rick, Katie, mom Linda (Maya Rudolph), little brother Aaron (Mike Rianda), and pet pug Monchi, head out on the road. But along the way, there’s a tech uprising which results in all of mankind being imprisoned. Now it’s up to the Mitchells to save the world.
‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ feels a little too conventional, initially, its quirky characters and taut father-daughter relationship recalling Dreamworks animation ‘The Croods’. It’s directed by Mike Rianda (the same Mike Rianda who voices Aaron, funnily enough), and the producers are Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who previously brought us ‘The Lego Movie’ and ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’. With such credits behind the creative team, one feels more willing to give ‘The Mitchells’ a shot, and as it picks up the pace, the viewer will be glad they did.
Like ‘Into the Spider-Verse’, ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ has a distinct, attractive animated style (in fact, there are moments, particularly, in the finale that visually call back to ‘Spider-Verse’). It’s interesting that the feature was previously titled the far less wordy ‘Connected’, given the film not only examines our dependency on staying connected, but reflects how a family unit struggles to connect with one another.
The voice acting is great, with Danny McBride as the gruff, traditional patriarch and Maya Rudolph as the consistently optimistic matriarch fitting the bill effortlessly, plus Olivia Colman is great craic as the villain. The characters are lovely and likeable too, with Katie making for a sweet lead, Aaron being a cute, dinosaur-loving nerd, and the pug is just stupid and thoroughly lovable. Based on Doug the Pug, don’t be surprised if this animated pupper quickly becomes as iconic as such cartoon creations as the Minions.
‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ is a lot of fun. It’s funny, looks fantastic, and incorporates some fantastic action sci-fi sequences. There are some clichés and it’s a little long, but the finale is just thrilling. Some very clever satire and references feature too, though one wouldn’t want to give it away as watching the movies knowing little going into it is a big part of the romp.
Like ‘Into the Spider-Verse’, ‘The Mitchells’ is perfect for families, because adults really will enjoy it as much as the kids. It’s a shame it never made it to cinemas, because the action would have loaned itself great to the big screen. Still if you’re watching it on Netflix, which bought the movie in the wake of the pandemic, try to watch it with your loved ones around you, and laugh together, relaxed into acting like your weird, usual selves, just like the family on screen.
‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ is available on Netflix from Friday, 30th April.