Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo behind both Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movies and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, have teamed up with Sony Pictures Animation yet again to bring us The Mitchells vs. The Machines. The 3D-animated film follows a dysfunctional family as they must find ways to work together to save the Earth from the impending robot apocalypse. Does this latest science fiction comedy live up to Lord and Miller’s previous work on the likes of the extremely well-received Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, or does it crash and burn like a malfunctioning robot?
As expected, the animation is absolutely spectacular throughout The Mitchells vs. The Machines. Like Lord and Miller’s previous films with Sony, this one is mostly animated in 3D. However, there are instances of 2D animation that enhance certain visuals to incredible levels. There’s even some minor instances of live action that are mainly there just to make certain onscreen elements look more humorous. All three styles mix well together to create something visually unique. Even though the movie mainly uses 3D animation, the characters still move and stretch as if they were 2D animated at times, which further helps the visuals stand out and feel like something new.
Adding to the excellent animation is the incredible attention to detail throughout the film. Threads stick out from Katie’s ripped jeans, and she has doodles subtly drawn on her hands that can easily be missed. There’s even a moment when Katie is texting where she spells a word slightly wrong and autocorrect quickly fixes it for her. It makes the movie’s world feel that much more real, yet a lot of it can go so unnoticed despite the outstanding efforts put in by the animation team.
Since this is a movie about clashing family members who learn to bond, there’s quite a bit of heartfelt and emotional moments throughout. The story showcases a very relatable conflict between a parent and child who don’t quite understand each other. This familial divide creates the opportunity for touching scenes and powerful character development as they learn to reach common ground because, despite their different ways of looking at things, they do love each other. There are a surprising amount of tear-jerking moments from start to finish for an otherwise lighthearted comedy.
Since it is a comedy, the movie needs to be funny as well. Luckily, it’s hilarious. Cartoony slapstick, witty dialogue, wacky situations, and a particularly derpy pug all work together to make this one of the funniest animations since The LEGO Movie. The humor is clever throughout. Even when the film uses a common trope, the filmmakers make it funny by putting their own twist on it, like Katie pretending to be hurt just to trick her dad into getting pug kisses when he gets closer. There’s something for everyone to laugh about regardless of the type of humor you prefer.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines has a phenomenal lineup of voice actors. Abbi Jacobson, Eric André, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Beck Bennet, and more show off their incredible talents as they bring each of these characters to life. Some celebrities just sort of blandly read lines for the animated features they’re chosen for, but everyone involved in this movie is expressive. They each sound more like their characters than themselves, which is impressive.
There’s plenty of robot-smashing action throughout the movie as well. The more action-packed scenes are exciting and suspenseful, and are overall extremely satisfying to experience. Whether characters are crushing robots beneath dinosaur statues, surfing on flying robots, or running from giant Furbies, it’s always a thrilling ride.
Something that shouldn’t go overlooked is the movie’s LGBT+ representation. Katie, the film’s protagonist, is a part of the LGBT+ community. It’s important to have representation in a film like this so that way people can see it being normalized. There are people who can finally see themselves represented in a movie. More importantly, the representation comes from the protagonist rather than a tertiary character who’s seen once or twice like in other modern animated movies. It may not be much of a focus for the movie, but Katie being LGBT+ is done organically. The story is more focused on the relationship between her and her father, so it doesn’t have much of an opportunity to come up, but when it does, being gay isn’t treated like a big deal. Katie is treated the same way she would be if she was straight, which is also extremely important.
The Mitchells are supposed to be a dysfunctional family of weirdos who aren’t like other families. However, they seem more like the average family than the filmmakers may realize. Each family member has something about them that makes them unique, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. A little boy who is obsessed with dinosaurs or a middle-aged father who’s out of touch with technology aren’t weird. They’re pretty standard. The “perfect family” in the movie is actually much weirder. They’re TOO perfect. What family has combat escape strategies? Maybe that’s all part of the joke, though.
The Millers escape the robots pretty easily by hiding in an ice machine during the initial invasion. Later, we find out they’re the last humans left who haven’t been captured. Not a single other person out of the billions on Earth thought to hide from the robots? It seemed surprisingly simple to trick them. Even the supposedly “perfect” family gets captured when they could have just hidden from the robots. How is it that only four humans and a pug decided to hide for a few minutes?
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is another hit for Lord and Miller and Sony Pictures Animation. It’s hilarious, heartfelt, action-packed, and exceptionally well animated. The family conflicts are relatable, and the robot apocalypse is exciting. There are a couple of questions raised by the film, but they’re mostly nitpicks. The Mitchells vs. The Machines is an absolute joy for audiences of all ages, so definitely check it out if you haven’t already.