The Mitchells vs. The Machines

The Mitchells vs. The Machines ★★★★

The Mitchells v.s. The Machines feels like a film I’ve seen a million times before, but it feels like the first one to get it right. It’s trying to be your standard animated family comedy where a family who don’t get along the best have to put aside their differences to accomplish their goal. It also tries to be yet another cautionary tale about our overreliance on technology and how we all need to unplug and talk to each other. Where other movies fail in this regard, this film succeeds. It tells an emotionally powerful story about family trying to connect with one another, while also having a faithful understanding of the internet and how people use it, making for a film that doesn’t portray technology as the ultimate evil for once. It’s surprisingly nuanced despite falling into so many cliches, which is what makes it so great all around.

I think what sets this film apart from other films seeking to criticize the modern world and its technology problem is how the technology is portrayed. So many other films like this were clearly written by old people who don’t understand how people actually use the internet, and thus, they fail to say much about the actual issues they are trying to address. But in this film, you get the sense that the writers actually know how the internet works and how we all use it. For example, the adults of the film are shown to be just as obsessed with screens as their kids, showing how it's not just a younger generation problem. The movie doesn’t just point the middle finger at technology and call it a day (though it does throw a few jabs at big internet companies, which is great). It acknowledges how useful and important the internet is; it’s just that more often than not, it’s us that overuse the technology to a fault. It doesn’t try to act like things were “better in the old days”, but instead encourages it’s viewers to take a break from their phones when they are with those they love.

Speaking of which, despite technology being a major theme of the story, it’s not fair to call it the film’s main focus. Above all, The Mitchells v.s. The Machines is a film about family. The Mitchells themselves aren’t shown as completely distant with each other, but they also aren’t completely harmonious, just like any other family. The conflict between Katie and her father, Rick, is often what drives the plot forward. Even though we’ve seen plotlines like this before, its execution here makes it very compelling. For one, their rocky relationship is shown to be caused by both of their actions; it’s not solely Katie or Rick’s fault. They are both equally to blame. Katie fails to take into consideration all her dad does for her, and Rick fails to fully support Katie when she needs him. Despite the cartoony style of the movie, it's this approach to relationships that makes the Mitchells feel real. 

This holds true for the rest of the family as well, where you can tell they don’t fully understand each other, but they are always there for each other. Seeing them bond and grow closer to each other over the course of the film is really heartwarming. Sure, a lot of the moments they share can be really cheesy, but you can tell this was done intentionally, as that’s what family can be like sometimes. I remember cringing at a lot of the stuff the family does, not because the film was bad, but because of how painfully relatable it was. I remember doing awkward singalongs in the car with everyone that I wouldn’t be caught dead doing now. I remember receiving little trinkets from my dad that I didn’t take as good of care for as he did. It’s this attention to detail that makes the Mitchells very fun and relatable protagonists that you desperately want to see succeed in the end.

The visual style of the film is also something that gives it its own identity. The animation has a lot of borrowed DNA from the animation of Spider-Verse, as it’s a 3D animated film that takes a lot of ques from 2D. There are thick outlines for everything, and the characters' faces look like something straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s obviously not going to trick anyone into thinking that it’s 2D, but the combination of the two styles creates very appealing visuals. The film also manages to pull off some pretty good action with the characters, again, in a similar way to Spider-Verse. There are also a lot of 2D drawings posted onto the animation like you would see on Snapchat or Instagram, and while it did get on my nerves a little bit, I don’t think it was ever too overbearing, and mostly just added to the film's charm.

Phil Lord and Chrisopher Miller have once again proven to be the absolute kings of turning seemingly bad ideas into gold. First with Clone High, then with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, then with the freaking Lego Movie, then with Into the Spider-Verse, and now with The Mitchells v.s. The Machines. But credit does need to go to Michael Rianda, as this is his feature length debut. Him and his team have no doubt created a fantastic film here, and I can’t wait to see where he and Sony Animation as a whole go next. Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised with The Mitchells v.s. The Machines, and I definitely encourage you to check it out on Netflix.

Also, quick hot take: I kinda like the other title they were going to go with, Connected, better than the title we got. I get why they changed it to The Mitchells v.s. The Machines, and it's a decent title, but I think the title Connected fits much better with the themes of the movie. 

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