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REVIEW: The Mitchells vs. The Machines

The Mitchells vs The Machines Review

Back in March 2020, we featured the trailer for an animated movie called Connected in one of our TrailerChat posts, an action-comedy about an ordinary family tasked with the job of saving the world from a robot apocalypse. Scheduled for an October release, team CineChat were all well and truly sold on the trailer… well, apart from Mary that is, who expressed some disappointment and reservations concerning the whole robot apocalypse ruining a nice family road trip angle. But then, a certain pandemic came along, messed up everything, and the release of Connected was delayed until being picked up by Netflix earlier this year. Reverting to what was apparently its original name prior to Connected, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is now due to land on Netflix on April 30th. And boy, was it worth the wait.

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It’s fair to say that every family has its challenges, and when we first meet The Mitchells, they are now the last of the human race and are being chased through the streets in their car by robots who are out to capture them at all costs. The machine apocalypse is now in full swing, and they have absolutely no idea what they are doing. 

Backing things up a few days and life is a lot more boring and ordinary for The Mitchells. Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson), a huge film fan who grew up making homemade movies starring her little brother Aaron (Mike Rianda) and the family dog Monchi, has just secured herself a place at the California college of film and cannot wait to leave home and finally be with her kind of people. Nature-loving dad Rick (Danny McBride) just doesn’t seem to understand his daughter anymore and sadly they’ve drifted apart in recent years. He makes sure that he and his wife Linda (Maya Rudolph) always carry a screwdriver with them, as you never know when it might come in handy, and has no interest in his daughter’s creative filmmaking skills. Even at the dinner table, his wife and kids are all on their smartphones and nobody seems capable of interacting or connecting with each other in the real world anymore. So, in a last-ditch attempt to try and re-connect with his family, Rick insists that they all head out on a cross country family road trip in order to drive Katie to college. He’s cancelled Katie’s plane ticket to California and even called the college to ask if she could miss orientation week, much to the horror of Katie, who had already made big plans with her fellow students for when she arrives tonight.

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One of the downsides to the impromptu family road trip is that the tech-savvy Mitchell kids are going to miss out on a live presentation from Mark Bowman, a 21st-century tech giant and founder of PAL Labs. Mark became successful by creating the world’s first digital personal assistant, PAL (voiced by Olivia Colman), something which now powers billions of smart devices around the world, and he is now set to reveal to the world his latest technological breakthrough. Mark has created the next “evolution” of PAL – “Pal Max” Robots. These robots can do everything PAL can, only better and Mark is quick to reassure the watching audience that these robots definitely won’t turn evil. However, when the lack of safety precautions in their programming is breached, he’s proved wrong, and the robot uprising begins. Everything from smartphones to Roombas, to evil Furbys, are all employed to capture every single human on the planet. Miraculously, the Mitchells manage to evade capture and the fate of humanity now lies in the hands of what Katie Mitchell declares to be ‘The Worst Family of All Time’. Surely we’re all doomed?!

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Michael Rianda, writer and creative director of Disney’s critically acclaimed, BAFTA-winning animated series, Gravity Falls, is the writer and director of The Mitchells vs. The Machines, a very personal project that was inspired by his own delightfully crazy family, along with a childhood infatuation with robots. The movie is also produced by Oscar winners Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Kurt Albrecht, so comes from a great background of creative talent. And it shows too, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is positively brimming with both the fast-paced action and humour of The LEGO movie and the visual wizardry and storytelling of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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Combining two different styles of animation – a more illustrative, hand-painted approach, along with the realism seen in the majority of CG films today – the film is also packed full of wonderful little visual flourishes throughout. A lot of these come in the form of freeze-frame moments, where Katie is writing on the screen and the team felt it was a great idea to have her creativity and vision spill onto the screen – a visual touch they called Katie Vision. “The idea was: If Katie is a filmmaker who makes all these goofy movies, what if it felt like she was the one editing our movie? So, she’s the one writing on the frame and drawing hearts around her mom and devil horns on her dad,” explains Rianda. “It seemed like a really fun way to show her character more within the filmmaking of the movie itself. We wanted to make her this relentlessly creative person who’s drawing on her shoes and her pants and the wall or wherever. So, it would make sense that she was drawing on the frame”. We also get to see some of Katie’s own pitches for a sequel to the movie, including The Mitchells vs. The Aliens, The Mitchells vs. An Army of Clones, The Mitchells vs. The Concept of Death, and The Mitchells: Into the Furby-Verse. Personally, I’m all in for watching any of those movies!

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I absolutely loved The Mitchells vs. The Machines. It may be about a family fighting against the robot apocalypse, but it still manages to find plenty of time to pack in an emotional punch, highlighting what it means to be human and appreciating and learning to connect with the people that matter most to you, your family. And on top of that, I laughed hard on more than one occasion too. The addition of two malfunctioning robots, who try to fool the Mitchells into thinking they are human, before eventually becoming part of the family, takes the humour to another level. And Monchi the dog (grunts, sneezes, barks, licks, and other dog noises provided by Instagram star Doug the Pug!) manages to steal the show in every scene he features.

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Packed full of heartwarming and emotional family moments, frantic action, laugh out loud humour and gorgeous visuals throughout, this is definitely my favourite movie of the year so far.

And, I’ve had the song ‘Dragostea Din Tei’ by O-Zone stuck in my head for 5 days straight now! It needs to stop!!

Connected (2021) Animation, Adventure, Comedy | 113min | 30 April 2021 (UK)
Director: Michael Rianda, Jeff RoweWriter: Michael Rianda, Jeff RoweStars: Charlyne Yi, Olivia Colman, Eric AndréSummary: An animated action-comedy about an ordinary family who find themselves in the middle of their biggest family challenge yet...saving the world from the robot apocalypse. No big deal, right? It all starts when creative outsider Katie Mitchell is accepted into the film school of her dreams and is eager to leave home and find "her people," when her nature-loving dad insists on having the whole family drive her to school and bond during one last totally-not-awkward-or-forced road trip. But just when the trip can't get any worse, the family suddenly finds itself in the middle of the robot uprising. Everything from smart phones, to roombas, to evil Furbys are employed to capture every human on the planet. Now it's up to the Mitchells, including upbeat mom Linda, quirky little brother Aaron, their squishy pug, Monchi, and two friendly, but simple-minded robots to save humanity. Written by Netflix

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Lee Boardman
I'm a web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow almost as quickly as my available spare time shrinks! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man crush on Tom Cruise.