In the world of animation, the likes of Disney and Illumination have dominated the genre in recent years, but that is not to say that other studios have not prevalent in the animated scene. One such studio is none other than Sony Pictures Animation. The animated studio has come a long way since its 2006 debut as the department has found its place with hits such as the Hotel Transylvania series and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Now the studio returns and shows what happens when a dysfunctional family goes up against a mechanical uprising in the new movie: The Mitchells vs. The Machines. Directed by Mike Rianda, The Mitchells vs. The Machines had an interesting development as the movie was originally going to be called Connected and was meant to hit theaters last year. However, due to a delay and a certain pandemic, the film was pushed back, and it would eventually be distributed by Netflix. Truth be told this was not a film I was ecstatic to see as the concept seemingly contradicted each other in the film’s first trailer. However, any reservations I once had became obsolete as The Mitchells vs. The Machines was simply a delight.
The story centers on Katie (Abbi Jacobson) and her weird family. Before Katie can leave for film school her father Rick Mitchell (Danny McBride) decides to take the whole family on cross country trip in the hopes of reconnecting with his daughter. However, the trip goes astray when inventor Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) creates an invention that leads to an uprising of robots, and only the Mitchells stand between them and complete domination. The plot of this animated adventure was much more than I anticipated. Despite having contrasting concepts, the story found a way to blend the ideas in a coherent manner. When it came to the story’s sense of adventure it was a bit straightforward in its structure and relied heavily on familiar tropes; but this is not to say this direction was handled poorly. Yet the strongest attribute to this zany plot was its tone and how it balanced the humor with story’s deeper aspects. The concept of family and staying connected was a way to ground the plot and gave it compelling ideas that most could relate to. This keen sense of direction was enough to make this outrageous story one filled with adventure as well as heart.
When it came to the cast, the Mitchells were a fantastic group of characters. The strange family were as much stellar individuals as they were a coherent unit. Katie and Rick had the most development of the family members and there was a good balance between their separate progressions. However, both the maternal Linda Mitchell (Maya Rudolph) and the youngest member Aaron (Mike Rianda) had plenty to offer as they provided support to their respected family members and had their own quirks to deal with. Together the Mitchells had an abundance of chemistry together and the performances from each member was effective to say the least; though Danny McBride was particularly notable in his role as it was a change of pace in the actor’s typical repertoire. In the case of the supporting cast, the movie featured a variety of standout characters. The likes of Mark had his moments while the sentient robots Eric (Beck Bennett) and Deborahbot 5000 (Fred Arminsen) turned out to be good companions for the Mitchells. In the case of villains, the AI Pal (Olivia Coleman) was a noteworthy antagonist as her motivations were stronger than one would expect while Coleman’s performance made the villainous phone delightfully evil. Last and certainly not least was true star of the show Monchi (Doug the Pug), the Mitchell’s dog, whose contribution to this outlandish cast will no doubt guarantee the canine the award for best supporting actor.
In the case of animation, The Mitchell vs. The Machines was a vibrant experience. Along with its exuberant design, the film’s blend of 2D and 3D animation was simply creative as aspects like Kate’s imagination and Pal’s motions truly highlighted this dynamic style. Along with the ecstatic animation was the movie’s zany sense of humor. The comedy had me chuckling throughout the entire film as its outrageous moments was matched by its clever delivery. The score by Mark Mothersbaugh was appropriate element for the movie. While it could be subtle in its delivery, the music managed to work with the movie’s concepts (particularly its tech theme) and helped establish the right atmosphere to this stylish film.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is anything but a typical animated film. While the movie took some shortcuts in its storytelling, it made for it with its keen direction in themes and character development. Along with a strong sense in the basic, the movie also featured an impressive presentation as aspects like animation were too stellar to ignore. Sony Pictures Animation has yet another winner in its filmography as The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a stylish animated feature, a touching family film and simply a standout movie for the year.