The Mitchells vs. The Machines - Reviewed By Dj Mack

The film is about a teenage girl who is on her way to film school but her father decides to drive his daughter and the rest of the family to the college, as a last ditch family bonding trip. Written and directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, the film is about this girl feeling alienated somewhat and wanting to find communion with people who are like her. She thinks she needs to find that communion with fellow college students studying or pursuing filmmaking. Of course, given the title and the nature of most animated films, she's going to find that communion with her family instead. The message is obviously a commendable one where it recognizes that families can be weird but despite that, one should embrace them and embrace the weirdness. By the end, it's revealed that the teenage girl is part of the LGBTQ community. Yet, more time is devoted to her little brother's potential girlfriend than depicting an actual lesbian romance for the main character, which is frustrating. It's reminiscent of so many recent blockbusters that want to get credit for having a queer character but not wanting to put the actual work in depicting any same-sex relationship. ParaNorman (2012) was guilty of the same.
Where I rolled my eyes is at the plot. The titular nemesis is an artificially intelligent cell phone. It would be if Apple's iPhone came to life and if Apple's Suri was now sentient. Watching computers develop a personality and turn evil has been a trope of cinema for a long time. Classic examples include 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and The Terminator (1984). Some recent lame examples include Superintelligence (2020) and Outside the Wire (2021). There are so many of them that it can feel cliché unless something different or compelling is done with it. This film could be seen as accomplishing that.

Rianda and Rowe make the evil computer in question called "Pal," which feels like a reference to HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, Pal feels slighted by its creator, a bro tech guy named Mark, voiced by Eric André. Because Mark tossed away his phone that had Pal on it, Pal decides to throw away the entire human race. It's not exactly clear what it means by this, but the assumption is the same as the computers in Outside the Wire, Superintelligence and The Terminator, which is killing off the human race or total genocide. When this plot gets going, it's not sure if Pal would actually engage in killing people or genocide.
That threat was potentially compelling and thrilling. However, Pal doesn't kill anyone. All that happens is that people are captured and imprisoned in floating glass boxes that are then stacked on top of each other. It's not clear what Pal's purpose for doing this is. The boxes don't seem to have food or water, so ostensibly the people will die if they remain in these boxes, but if that's Pal's goal, that feels inefficient. After Pal learns that most, if not every human on Earth has been captured, except this one family, Pal sends even deadlier robots after them, so I don't understand why Pal wouldn't just kill all of them.

Rianda and Rowe probably didn't want to go too dark. They probably wanted this film to be light and fluffy in its tone, but many Disney films going back decades have featured death. From Bambi (1942) to The Lion King (1994), characters have been killed in Disney films. Even in animated films like The Incredibles (2004) and Toy Story 3 (2010) where characters don't die, the villains in those films still have no hesitation with doing things that result in people's deaths. It just felt like the villains in those films weren't pulling punches. Given how vitriolic Pal seems to be, I'm not sure why it does pull its punches.
Speaking of artificial intelligence, this film does seem to have an anti-technology or anti-computer aspect to it, at least initially. The father of the main character is Rick Mitchell, voiced by Danny McBride. Rick is the one who doesn't know how to operate computers. He tells his family to put their phones away. He's more into wood and woodworking. To me, it then becomes odd or ironic that the filmmakers would choose to use computer-animation to make the film or as the main technique. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) incorporated different animation techniques. That Oscar-winner incorporated different techniques simply to make that film visually dynamic. This film had thematic reasons to do so, but didn't.

There was also some jokes that fell flat for me. There is a joke that made fun of people's reliance on Wi-Fi and basically having Internet access. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic showed how much of a utility the Internet can be and is. Whether it's going to school virtually or communicating with loved ones during this coronavirus outbreak, the Internet and having Wi-Fi have been necessities for people, which is why President Biden put broadband Internet into his infrastructure plan. I get the Internet is ripe for criticism in terms of how people use it and the issues with social media, but the joke here was simply people's reliance on Wi-Fi and Internet access, which to me felt like mocking people's reliance on electricity or modern plumbing. It just falls flat to mock a utility that people need.

 'The Mitchells Vs The Machines' is Sony's First Animated Film in 2 years and is produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The film is about a dysfunctional family who's obsessed with technology excluding the father, Rick Mitchell. After accidentally breaking his daughter's computer in the kitchen, Rick wants to make it up and cancels her plane to college to instead go on a road trip so he can spend time with her on the last day she's with the family. But, in the middle of the road trip, a tech uprising has started, and being the only humans on earth. The family must defeat PAL and save the world.
To start, the animation of this film is visually stunning and looks amazing. Some parts look like it could be promotional material but it's the actual film. This film goes for a more stylistic CG style like 'Spider-Verse' and 'Sponge The On The Run'. The character designs are simplistic and well-done. I love how some moments even have 2-D elements integrated with the CGI.

The film's story is great and that's what stands it out from most robot apocalypse stories. The story is about a creative girl that wants to go to a film college but her dad isn't very supportive of her dreams. One thing I like about this movie is that Rick is someone who makes mistakes but always has good intentions and isn't mean-spirited like a lot of films that do this kind of story. Both characters just have dreams that can't happen due to how the characters act. In the end, they do make up and find a real connection. This movie is quite predictable and you can see the ending of both stories 90 minutes away but how the film handles both stories before the end makes up for that. I also think this movie did a good job in making a commentary on how both generations view technology.

It's not just "phones bad" in the movie and it instead shows how both sides can have negatives and positives.

The film is also a comedy and it delivers with the jokes. Some of them however do mess with the pacing in this film. For example, the family would be trying to fight the robots in the climax of the movie, and out of nowhere, they pause the scene to add a visual gag. Other than that, the film is definitely a funny flick, and if you ever want to get a good laugh while being invested in a great, emotional story with some amazing visuals. I would definitely recommend this film.

'The Mitchells vs. The Machines' is a fun movie that some flaws but the film makes up for that with a great cast of characters, an engaging story, fantastic visuals, and animation, and great commentary.