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Film Review: ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ is a Colorful and Energetic Adventure

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The Mitchell Family: Linda (Maya Rudolph), Katie (Abbi Jacobson), their dog Monchi, Aaron (Michael Rianda) and Rick (Danny McBride).

It’s a little difficult to do The Mitchells vs. the Machines justice in a review. After all, whether it’s still images from the film, or a simple plot description, it comes off somewhat disposable. However, that’s anything but the case for this new animated movie that Netflix acquired from Sony. Briefly retitled Connected, The Mitchells vs. the Machines traffics in good-natured weirdness, happiness, and a genuine sense of fun. Whether it’s observing the Mitchell clan at home, on the road, or trying to save the world, they’re both relatable and quirky. The combination works in a way that actually sneaks up on you, especially by the end.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines may look like something that’s strictly for kids, but there’s more here than meets the eye. Sure, the visuals are bright and snappy, appealing to the youngest viewers, but the quirk of it all, not to mention the heart, will please older folks too. Good animated movies have something for everyone, and this is certainly the case here with this one.

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Katie Mitchell (voice of Abbi Jacobson) loves her family, but she’s an outsider. The creative aspiring filmmaker uses a visual medium to tell her story to the world, but her less tech-savvy dad Rick Mitchell (voice of Danny McBride) just can’t connect with her on that level. When Katie is accepted into film school, she can’t wait to leave home, so she can find “her people” at college. Desperate to mend their fracturing relationship, Rick comes up with the plan to trade in her plane ticket and instead drive her to school. Under protest, Katie ends up on the road with her dad, mom Linda (voice of Maya Rudolph), brother Aaron (voice of Michael Rianda), and dog Monchi.

What should be an irritating yet doable road trip takes a turn when the robot apocalypse occurs. The head of tech company PAL, Mark Bowman (voice of Eric André) has just launched a line of robots to replace his smart technology, which his iOS (voice of Olivia Colman) takes offense to. So, the robots rise up, throwing the world into chaos, with the Mitchell family caught right in the middle. Adventure ensues!

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There’s some nice voice work on display here. No one is threatening to force the Oscars to create a new category to honor them, but they all fill the characters well. In particular, the trio of Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, and Maya Rudolph imbue the family with a dynamic that’s both familiar and zany. Their interactions are a strong part of what makes The Mitchells vs. the Machines work, while it’s never a bad thing to have the voice of Olivia Colman on hand, regardless of what she’s doing.

Without question, the writing and directing is where The Mitchells vs. the Machines gets to shine. Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe sure make this an energetic production. To be sure, they’re channeling producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, giving it the Lord and Miller spark. While it’s not the masterpiece that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is, there’s still so much creativity on display. The plot beats are fairly easy to guess ahead of time, but the sprinkled in bits of weirdness and oddball humor really do elevate this one. In particular, the dog, as well as Katie’s experimental movies, stand out.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines ultimately is a real feel good film, and we can always use another one of those in our lives. Netflix has a very strong animated flick on their hands, one that’s likely to be in play next year for an Academy Award nomination. Parents can certainly watch this with their children, but families are hardly the only ones this movie will appeal to. There’s something for everyone, so give it a look!

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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