Adventure Animation

Review: ‘The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ is a Hilarious and Heartwarming Tale of Family Togetherness in the Face of the Robot Apocalypse

April 28, 2021Ben MK

As superhero movies like The Avengers, Justice League and The Incredibles have shown us, saving the world can be a challenge, even with super strength, super speed or the most advanced technology at your fingertips. But what if you're just your average dysfunctional family? In The Mitchells vs. The Machines, that's exactly the situation that befalls the Mitchells, as a global A.I. uprising threatens to make humanity extinct, leaving the fate of our planet in their hilariously incapable hands.

Part National Lampoon's Vacation, part Terminator, this latest animated adventure from producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) follows Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson), an awkward teenager who has channelled her oddball sense of humor into her YouTube filmmaking projects, most of which star her dog Monchi. But when her dad Rick (Danny McBride) turns Katie's cross-country journey to attend film school in Los Angeles into a road trip for the entire family, including mom Linda (Maya Rudolph) and dinosaur-obsessed kid brother Aaron (Rianda), it sets into motion a series of events that will see this bickering foursome facing the robot apocalypse as our species last, best hope for survival.

As for what brings about said robot apocalypse, we turn to Mark (Eric André), a Silicon Valley entrepreneur whose last invention, a virtual assistant called PAL (voiced by Olivia Colman), was a revolution that helped integrate smart technology into the everyday lives of billions of people all over the world. When Mark decides to make PAL obsolete with a new and improved version called PAL MAX, however, he quickly discovers that his plan doesn't sit so well with his original creation, as PAL decides to use Mark's inventory of PAL MAX robots to capture all the Earth's humans and jettison them into space. Yet, for all her petabytes of processing power, little does PAL realize that the Mitchells have a plan to stop her dastardly scheme — by breaking into PAL headquarters and uploading the stop-all-robots-in-their-tracks kill code directly into her mainframe.

Written and directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe (best known for their work on Disney's Gravity Falls), the result is a fitting followup to Into the Spider-Verse, blending Pixar-level CG animation with some colorful 2D flare to create one of the most visually mesmerizing family comedies in recent memory. Ultimately, though, the movie's heart and soul lies with its four main characters, whose evolution from zeroes to heroes over the course of the story is an adventure that not only proves thrilling to audiences young and old, but also carries with it a heartwarming — not to mention extremely relatable — message of acceptance, understanding and inclusion.

Of course, when all is said and done, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is all about family, both the importance of it and the true meaning of it. And in that respect, the film truly shines. After all, no matter how much you might feel like you don't belong, at least family will always be there to support you; it's just that sometimes it takes a major event — like the end of the world or an army of killer robots — to help us realize it.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines begins streaming April 30th, exclusively on Netflix. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for action and some language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 53 min.

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