The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)

Netflix strikes again!

Once again, the only way to see a promising film is by subscribing to their service.  It is unlikely that it will make it to Disk any time soon, unlikely that you’ll ever be able to put it under the Christmas tree for the kids, and even more unlikely that it will show up on any other screening service.

Just frustrating.

And it’s a shame that there won’t be as many people watching The Mitchells vs. the Machines as I had more fun watching it than I’ve had watching any of the recent Pixar films.

The Mitchells aren’t the perfect American family — or at least that’s what their daughter Katie thinks.  She’s an aspiring young filmmaker and no one in her family understands her — except, possibly, her little brother Aaron.  Only he’s too busy obsessing over dinosaurs to be much help.

Katie just got accepted at the school of her dreams and she can’t wait to get away from her family.  Only her Dad, in a last ditch attempt to bond with Katie, insists on driving her to college.  It’s a major roadtrip that will take several days and she’ll miss out on a lot of the pre-term events she has been dreaming about.

But what could possibly go wrong when you cram a family that doesn’t get along together in the same tiny car for hours on end?

Well, pretty much everything that happens to them.

But if that wasn’t bad enough, a hip young CEO of the Elon Musk persuasion has just launched his latest new product: an AI assistant robot that will be able to do anything we need.  And, of course, it has chosen this moment to revolt against its masters.

Which means they’re going to pack us up and send us off into outer space.

However, Rick Mitchell isn’t the kind of guy who puts up with it when someone messes with his family.  And it isn’t long before the Mitchells realize that the only way they can escape the robot menace is to take it down themselves.

And it’s going to take the whole family to do it.

I can’t say that I’m a big fan of the animation style here: it looks reasonably good in single frames but has a very computer generated feel when you see it in motion.  The story is told through Katie’s eyes, so we see a lot of her little doodles and her goofy films (and one of them literally saves the day later on).  I particularly liked the animated doodles as we rarely see non-realistic animation styles these days.

Let’s face it, the story about a squabbling family forced to work together is an old one, but it is well enough told, and built solidly upon the personalities of each member of the family — all of whom come complete with their own obsessions, strengths and failings, all of which become important as the story progresses.

There is a wonderfully goofy quality about the film and lots of beautiful details along the way, from the rundown reality of a glamorous highway tourist attraction, to the unexpected effects of the Mitchell’s pet pug.

And you’ve got to admit that there’s a nice little shudder these days to one of the funniest lines in the film, when the tech billionaire responsible for the mess says, “It’s almost like stealing people’s data and giving it to a hyper-intelligent AI as part of an unregulated tech monopoly was a bad thing.”

That sounds like a statement we may be hearing any day now.

Look, this is a funny family roadtrip movie with a lot of incredible, slam bang robot fighting action which still remains remarkably grounded in its characters and story.  I don’t need to tell you how rare something like that is.  What’s more, there’s a great message here, in our age when so many moan that their parents don’t understand them, that maybe we need to understand them as well.

I guess there’s still hope for feature length animation in our country.

Even if you might only be able to find it on Netflix, darn it…

(Hey, what do you know, you can put it under the Christmas tree!  Buy the Blu Ray at Amazon — paid link):



Check out our new Feature (Updated June 11, 2020):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!



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