Movie Review: The Mitchells vs. The Machines30th April 2021
Family is so incredibly important. That is at least something The Mitchells vs. The Machines can offer. How the immediate family reacts to one leaving the nest is dependent on the close rigidity of the nuclear structure. When I tottered off to university, I imagine there were a few tears here or there. That is more or less what The Mitchells vs. The Machines is looking to showcase. A buddy little road trip where a family of four venture on to take their child to college. It would not be a true, consequential journey if there were not something impeding their journey to such a prestigious destination. Inflicted and mired by a robot uprising, their impromptu vacation turns into one of survival.
Time and time again, the family formation that The Mitchells vs. The Machines looks to showcase is mocked. It displays an alternative to their lifestyle but does nothing to convince us that the dysfunctionality is endearing, rather than a problem these characters are actively shifting away from. Some clunky narration and several cat filter jokes later, and we get to the core of The Mitchells vs. The Machines. Danny McBride, Abbie Mitchell, Maya Rudolph and newcomer Michael Rianda make for an enjoyable four to follow. There are brief moments where the animation overtakes the clunky humour or the jokes actually hit the right notes, but these moments are not as frequent as they should be. It is light and fluffy entertainment. Light it may get, there is no escaping how heavy-handed some of the more banal moments are. Egads, the wi-fi has been turned off, we must all be savages now. It is well-humoured, but there is something within there that feels as though the old generation is whining about technology’s merits once again.
There is something rather endearing about an art style that can come to life and supersede weak comedy and ancient messages. There are plenty of freezeframes. A bounty of quick-cut edits to compare characters to this or that meme of the week, and an overbearing optimism that plays off as somewhat insane. The character that never fits in is quite the talented individual, similar to that of the leading lads in Me, Earl and the Dying Girl. Making their own movies in the comfort of their own home, pursuing that passion as best they can in the face of parents who don’t quite believe in them. It is a reliable and adaptable concept, but so are the many other plotlines found throughout. Eric Andre and Olivia Colman as a riff on the Amazon and Tesla days of terrifying entrepreneurship are toothless and rather meaningless. At least they are superbly funny in the face of these PAL robots taking over the world. Their design, from the red dot on their sleek black panel to the monotonous tone of sinister voice, is very reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Their design is boring, which is strange considering how vibrant and creative the rest of the film can be.
Still, it is hard to knock The Mitchells vs. The Machines. It tries tirelessly to make itself likeable and hip, casting its net far and wide to approach as many teenage worries as it can, but with the backdrop of something that’ll never happen, not within the next thirty years or so anyway. Apocalyptic robot invasion does not give much room for characters to grow, but what they embody in the early moments of set-up does not dissipate in the film’s waning moments. It is erratic and clumsy in what it wants to do with these characters, but the comedy hits nice enough notes. Technology is bad. Family time is good. The Mitchells vs. The Machines is stuck in the generation of “when I was your age…” but at least comes across as amicable and enjoyable.