Directed by Michael Rianda, The Mitchells vs. the Machines follows a quirky family on a road trip for the daughter’s first day in Film School. However, an uprising of artificially intelligent robots leads to an apocalypse that they must fight through first.
Being someone who couldn’t go to Film School despite being selected, this film hits too close to home. I did get upset thinking about it but was also reminded me how passionate I am about filmmaking. Sony has doubled down on the success of Spiderverse coming up with another hilarious film with zany and whacky animation. Animation that immediately distinguishes itself from the rest, giving it creative freedom like nothing else out there. It stings me to criticize something that’s so about me, but there are creative decisions that don’t work overall. It just comes down to the kind of movie it is and how I’m used to more mature themes. Despite all criticisms, The Mitchells vs. The Machines already feels like one of the best-animated movies of the year.
In both good ways and bad, this film is unlike most animation movies I usually watch. The Mitchells vs. The Machines is not too interested in being mature. It is first and foremost a film for the entire family to watch together. This is not something I can say for most Pixar or Slice-of-Life Anime films I usually watch.
For the good, this film finds very creative ways to be over the top and experimental. Be it an unrealistically cross-eyed but very hilarious dog or the constant transitions to moments being shot through Katie’s camera. There are some very memorable scenes that are as creative as they are funny. An animation film hasn’t made me laugh and drool over its animation in a while.
Little too many laughs
For the bad, the film is rarely grounded in human moments and tries to fool around a little too much. Ultimately, you’re left with a film that you can’t be serious about at any moment. That wouldn’t be a problem if the film weren’t about a very emotional theme, which is family. There are a little too many jokes in some otherwise seemingly heartfelt moments that almost left me confused. My mind was constantly trying to battle whether to laugh or not and by the end, I was beginning to feel a bit exhausted. Finally, I had to settle down for not expecting anything serious and just have a lighthearted albeit shallow experience.
This translates to the plot as well which just exists to string this family along on an adventure. It ends just because it must not because the film has earned it so. Yes, characters grow over the course of events but all of that seems clouded by the overtly light-hearted nature of the film. That’s not necessarily a bad or a good thing, it’s just a thing.
Voice acting across the entire cast is great, but particularly Michael Rianda himself as Katie’s brother Aaron and Olivia Colman as the sentient robot ‘Pal’. What’s also noteworthy is the opportunity for voice actors to act unusually with a film like this. Multiple scenes come to mind where actors had a chance to act in ways traditional voice acting rarely accommodates. It felt like the actors had a blast and it translates well to the screen.
The Mitchells vs The Machines already feels like one of the animation frontrunners for the year with zany animation and amusing characters. Its over-reliance on humor does impact its emotional weight but is still a great watch for the entire family.