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The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)

The Mitchells are a ragtag family in which everyone has their own plans and no one is ever on the same page. When the eldest Mitchel child, Katie (Abbi Jacobsen), prepares to leave for school her family decides that one last vacation, cross country, is the best thing for everyone. On their journey to the Golden State The Mitchells vs the Machines depicts a hoard of vindictive robots attempting to eradicate the human race. Now, the most unlikely of heroes must try to save everyone from the harrowing machines.

A group of strange individuals trying to stop a robot invasion–that honestly just sounds like a fun animated film; and, honestly, it is. It’s a fun film–but that’s about all. In the early stages of The Mitchells vs the Machines there is a narrative created that promises that the film will be full of emotion as a pair of out-of-touch parents attempt to rekindle a relationship with their children (and that emotion pops up every once in a while throughout the film), but that promise isn’t ultimately fulfilled. Had emotion played a more pivotal role in The Mitchells vs the Machines I believe I could have gotten behind the film more strongly.

The Mitchells vs the Machines is not a film for adults. Sure, there are moments when I laughed at the ridiculousness of the scenarios, but that was certainly not the majority of the film. This film purposefully appeals to children obsessed with technology, it appeals to hipsters, and it, in general, appeals to a younger generation. I’ve always felt that children’s films, regardless of how silly they can sometimes be, will only warrant true success if they can appeal to a more mature audience as well, and that’s certainly not the case in The Mitchells vs the Machines. The film is erratic at times, and while that is great for a generation in love with short clips rather than lengthy films, it loses a large part of its potential audience.

I once watched a making of Frozen II docuseries (because I was forced to by my wife), but I found myself enjoying the “making of” aspect of the series and all of the work that went into developing an animated film. The part that appealed to me the most was the “filming” aspect–trying to find the right angles by which to tell the story. I found there to be many instances throughout The Mitchells vs the Machines when I thought how wonderfully done that part of the film is. The way in which the animation is developed adds to the narrative and allows the filmmakers the ability to tell the story in the most effective way for a film of this nature.

I really am impressed by the constant connection to the mainstream for the younger generation–because everything feels like it happens organically. Those constant pop culture references play an integral role in The Mitchells vs the Machines, and they are typically well done. However, the overall film fails to ever really define itself. It’s not a bad film by any means, but I’m confused as to how it’s landed itself a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film–because it’s not quite that good.

Directed by Michael Rianda & Jeff Rowe.

Written by Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe, Peter Szilagyi, & 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, etc.




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