REEL Review – The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

Director: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe | 1h 53mins | Adventure, Animation, Comedy

Just as Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jackson) is about to head off to Film School, a sentient AI system takes over the world. In order to get things back on track Katie, along with her dysfunctional family, try to survive the new apocalypse and become humanities last hope.

It’s been three years since Lord and Miller produced Spiderman: Into The Spider-Verse, a film that not only redefined the superhero origin film but also brought fresh animation to a landscape dominated by the style that was created by Pixar all those years ago. The newest film produced by the duo is, much like Spider-Verse, a wonderful animation that seeps originality from every inch of its story while also harnessing chaos and warmth in equal measure. 

Just as Katie Mitchell is on the verge of leaving everything behind her and heading off to Film School her plans are halted by an invasion of robots, who’s first purpose was to become the world’s first super assistant. While Spider-Verse used the pop of comic book onomatopoeia to create distinct personality on screen, The Mitchells vs the Machines use a wisely similar tactic without losing it’s sense of identity. There’s a constant bombardment of  pencil drawn doodles and notebook scribbles that make the film’s voice instantaneous, but what’s even more impressive is how they mirror the frantic and spontaneous nature of it’s main character. 

Katie – who’s voiced by Abbi Jackson – is a fantastically minded teen that obsesses over making movies for a living (a wonderful intro to this is a young Katie standing in front of her class proclaiming “BEHOLD…CINEMA!”). She feels misunderstood by everyone except her  Mum and brother, who are as equally unique in their own way. One of the strongest parts of The Mitchells vs. The Machines is how well it balances the characters bold and individual personalities but somehow manages to find so much relatability in their dynamics. We’ve seen interpretations of the oddball families many times (think The Addams Family) but never has a family been so encompassing of what it means to love your family for all their idiosyncrasies. 

…the film tells it’s narrative smartly in order to avoid it’s core message getting lost in the apocalyptic anarchy ensuing around them. 

Whether it be Katie’s brother, Aaron, and his intense obsession with dinosaurs, her Mum’s intense and unconditional love for her children or her Dad’s Bear Grylls approach to life – the message of the film is to love your family and accept them for their imperfections. That, and a beautiful arc between Father and Daughter reconnecting, is what makes this film feel so homely and connectable. Despite these themes being right there in plain sight though, the film tells it’s narrative smartly in order to avoid it’s core message getting lost in the apocalyptic anarchy ensuing around them. 

The machines in question are under the control of PAL, an AI system that came from a large tech company with the same name. After being discarded by a tech-tycoon PAL decides to take over all the appliances under the umbrella of the company and wants to rid the earth of humans by shooting them into the void of space. The system is voiced by Olivia Coleman who, through her wonderful acting ability and comedic timing, is able to find humanity and humour in a villain that could so easily be reduced to it’s electronic confines. The film also takes sarcastic jabs at the large corporations that we allow to use all of our data with some great lines: “it’s almost like stealing people’s data and giving it to a hyper-intelligent AI as a part of an unregulated tech monopoly was a bad thing”. It’s a part of the movie that’s thrown in our face with no real subtlety, but I’d like to think it’s because the warning they’re giving us is so blindly obvious. 

The Mitchells vs The Machines is another wonderful film produced by Lord and Miller, it’s animation is lively and barbaric just like it’s characters and the film is made all the more better by a cast of similarly unique actors (Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph and Eric Andre also feature). Even if you aren’t laughing at every single gag the film has to offer you have to appreciate just how well it encapsulates family in all it’s imperfect glory.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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