For the past 12 years, I have been mostly concerned with preparing for the impending Zombie Apocalypse — thanks a lot, AMC! But after watching The Mitchells vs. the Machines, I am reminded of the most probable threat to humanity: The eventual robot uprising!
Artificial intelligence has always worried me. I mean, how much knowledge does a refrigerator need before it actually begins a killing spree? Well, that might be slightly exaggerated (for 2021, at least), but I think you can see where I’m going with this. The question isn’t “if” autonomous machines will eventually turn on its creators, but “when.”
For an animated kids’ movie, Mitchells vs. the Machines does a great job broaching the subject for a younger audience. Because it’s never too early to begin training for destroying our soon-to-be mechanical overlords!
“I guess cell phones ARE bad for you…”
After getting accepted into film school, Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) is finally leaving home. As a cinema aficionado, she feels like an outsider and out of touch with her family. Her father’s really into nature. Her little brother loves dinosaurs. And her mother is a first-grade teacher. Each of them spends more time focused on their individual activities than enjoying together time (don’t forget the pudgy, cross-eyed pet pug).
So, when Pal Labs releases the next generation of digital assistant technology — now with arms, legs and a.i. — there’s nothing stopping the creation from taking over the world… with the exception of one incredibly dysfunctional family.
The Mitchells never planned on being humanity’s final hope, they’re doing well just getting through the day without figuratively killing each other. While they may be unknowingly brave and somewhat hungry for action, they really have no idea what they’re doing.
When the robots arrive, they’ve got to figure out how to communicate with each other in order to survive the ordeal. And isn’t that a common theme for just about every family out there, all around the world?
Issues of obsolete technology, the dangerous over-reach of corporate power and no more wifi — ever — haunt these characters. That’s some pretty heady writing, but it comes with the territory for Phil Lord and Christopher Miller these days (who brought Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie and Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse to the big screen).
The pair of filmmakers really know how to bring heart and soul to an animated movie, regardless of its distributor, which helps when primarily entertaining a generation who experiences everything through their cell phones these days. And that is a good thing, because humanity’s best hope relies on a group of weirdos who don’t think or act like “normal” people…
“We have a chance to save the world, and we’re gonna do it…”
The Mitchells vs. the Machines is one part Terminator 2, plus a little bit of Tron: Uprising and a side of the Disney+. There’s a whole lotta Youtube jokes, plus plenty of fourth-wall breaking and a pretty good amount of family bonding going on, here. But there are way too many emojis for my tastes.
The storyline reminded me how easy it was to go off to college, but how hard it was when I got homesick not long afterward and all of the weekly collect phone calls I made. I actually teared up a few times while watching this film and truly loved the real family pictures on display during the end credits!
Mark Mothersbaugh did an excellent job (as always) setting the tone and the mood with the music. I really didn’t know a whole lot about director Michael Rianda and co-director Jeff Rowe, since I haven’t seen the main credit to their name (Gravity Falls), but I can’t wait to see what they both have in store for even more.
The future is what you make of it and for The Mitchells vs. the Machines, that future is very bright. The movie has received multiple Annie Awards noms, along with a variety of prizes from film critics (the Music City Film Critics have nominated it for best animated film of 2021!). That’s surely good news for Netflix, as the streamer prepares to build its annual Oscars trophy display case.