The Mitchells Vs The Machines


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Mitchells Vs The Machines
"Mayhem ensues - occasionally too much of it" | Photo: Netflix

There's a lovely back and forth between the retro and the futuristic in this Netflix animation about an average family caught in a robot Apocalypse that nods to the likes of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home while embracing everything the modern world of technology has to offer. When we meet the Mitchell's, they're on the run from the footsoldiers of an Alexa-type assistant called - in a choice that will please those from the west of Scotland, in particular - PAL (voiced with condescending glee by Olivia Colman).

Our guide to the situation is the Mitchell family's oldest daughter Katie (voiced by Abbie Jacobson), a teenage film nerd, who loves shooting her own short films and who, before the Apocalypse got going, was beyond excited to be on the brink of going to film school with "her people". Despite having a sweet relationship with her dinosaur-mad younger bro Aaron (Michael Rianda, who also co-writes and co-directs) and schoolteacher mum (Maya Rudolph), things have been pretty strained between her and her technophobic dad (Danny McBride) - with his attempts to get his family's noses out of their computer screens just one of the gags that are likely to strike a chord with families everywhere.

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In a bid to improve matters, dad hatches a plan for a road trip, unaware that PAL is about to exact revenge against her creator (Eric André) for his constant demands and ill gratitude. I'm sure writers Rianda, Jeff Rowe and Alex Hirsch would tell you that the fact he shares a first name with a certain Mr Zuckerberg is entirely coincidental.

Mayhem ensues - occasionally too much of it - not just in fast-paced scenes where they family try to outwit the robots but in the animation style, which blends CGI with traditional techniques and scribbles that seem to have escaped from Katie's subconscious, with things like hearts of aside comments appearing, as though they've been sketched on an Instagram story.

There is a witty message underneath about the way we let technology into every corner of our lives, epitomised by a nicely worked shopping mall sequence in which every appliance with a computer chip gpes rogue, including, in what feels like a Gremlins nod, an entire army of Furbies. Despite all this, the heart of the matter is, of course, the importance of family. To this end, there's no escaping the very American slant there is to the comedy - one running joke, for example, revolves around Katie's dad still driving a "stick shift" car, which will likely float over the heads of younger British audiences. Also in keeping with American animation, when the emotional moments come, the filmmakers lean right into them for a good old wallow. The breakneck pace elsewhere helps to overcome these problems - if one joke doesn't land there's another coming right behind it - and the writers definitely capture the way that family friction can break out despite nobody really intending for it to happen. With this much energy and imagination coming at you from all angles, it's hard not to be charmed.

Reviewed on: 18 Dec 2021
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The Mitchells Vs The Machines packshot
A family find themselves trying to avert the robot apocalypse.

Director: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe

Writer: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe, Alex Hirsch

Starring: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Michael Rianda, Eric André, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Charlyne Yi, Blake Griffin, Conan O'Brien, Doug the Pug, Melissa Sturm

Year: 2021

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US, Canada, Hong Kong


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