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January 22nd, 2022

the mitchells vs the machines spotlight pageThe Mitchell family prepares for battle with some robot allies in this scene from Netflix’s “The Mitchells vs. the Machines.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Family road trips can sometimes turn rather disastrous due to various circumstances. However, what would happen if that family road trip happened to take place during an uprising of suddenly sentient robots controlled by an artificial intelligence program bent on revenge?

That exact question is posed with Netflix’s new “The Mitchells vs. The Machines,” which follows the Mitchell family as they take a cross country road trip to drop off oldest daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) at film school. Along the way, they not only fight the evil robots but also learn some things about what it means to be a family. 

One of the first things that deserves praise with the movie is the animation. With the movie taking place in the somewhat near future, it makes sense for things to look more futuristic and sleek and smooth, and this movie does a great job of perfecting that look. The animation overall is stunning, and all the different colors and everything else just absolutely pop on screen, making the movie rather a visual feast. The movie comes from the same studio that produced 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which is also quite visually stunning, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that a lot of effort was put into the animation for this movie. There are also some visual animation gags used throughout the movie that keep everything amusing. 

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Another visual aspect of the movie that stood out to me was the design of the robots themselves, they’re all very sleekly drawn and almost look like what we think of when we think “ROBOTS!” I also couldn’t help but notice the two robots who come to the Mitchell’s aid early in the movie somewhat resemble the robot costumes used by the recently broken up Daft Punk. I’m not sure if this was a conscious design choice by the animators, but that’s what I was personally reminded of whenever those particular characters were on screen. Another visual aspect people might find amusing is during the credits – each of the main cast members sent in an old family photo to go by their name in the credits, and some of the photos are absolutely hilarious to look at. 

Something else that really stuck out to me was the music used throughout the movie. The instrumental score is very well done and fit every scene, and the regular pop songs used throughout also do a good job of setting each scene. I was overall very impressed with the musical score and I feel like a lot of effort was put into that aspect along with the animation.

I also liked how realistic the movie is as far as portraying the anxiety of a child going off to college. Throughout the movie, Katie keeps trying to prove to her dad, Rick (Danny McBride) she’s ready to be on her own in the world while he’s working to prevent her from getting hurt by the world and has a hard time letting go. It’s portrayed in a non-melodramatic way, and I feel like it’s a pretty accurate representation of what parents feel like when the kids start leaving the nest. It’s a very gentle lesson in letting go when it’s time, and it’s done very sweetly. 

The voice work throughout the movie is also done very well. Jacobson does a great job portraying Katie’s need for independence and her love for her family, especially her younger brother, and McBride does a great job being the gruff but lovable Mitchell patriarch. I also really enjoyed Maya Rudolph’s portrayal of Mitchell matriarch Linda, she has absolutely great comic timing and is able to portray all the necessary motherly and wifely wisdom needed to keep the family together throughout the movie’s journey. Olivia Colman’s voice work as the villainous PAL programming that begins the robot uprising is also done very well, and her voice is actually pretty much what I picture whenever I think of an evil robot overlord bent on revenge. 

The movie also does a good job of blending some different genres – it’s a road trip comedy, it’s a family journey movie, and it’s a technological uprising movie, among a few other genres. However, If I had to boil the movie to just one sentence, I’d say it’s a longer, kid-friendly episode of “Black Mirror.” And while it does a good job blending those genres, I kind of feel like the overall story was somewhat basic and could have used a few punch-ups to make it REALLY stand out from other similar movies, especially with the whole “Don’t let technology take over your life” message – we get it already, we need to think of ways to spend less time on our phones/tablets etc. 

Overall, however, I enjoyed “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” and I would give it a B-plus grade. The animation and other visual aspects are really well, done and the music used throughout fits every scene. The voice work from the cast is also really well done, and there’s a sense of realism throughout the movie as far as the message of letting go and letting the kids learn how to spread their wings alone. Among all of that, however, there were a few things that could have punched up the story, and the anti-technology message is starting to get a little stale. If you’re looking for a good family movie on Netflix, “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is a good one to click on. 

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