This time of year, we normally get some original Netflix films that are not worth mentioning (such as the atrocity that is Thunder Force, a movie I detested so much I keep forgetting it is not called Thunder Rush). That irrelevant film took the superhero premise and made a family film that was not fun for anyone in the family. Thankfully, that film will be forgotten once families discover a film that was made for any member of the family: The Mitchells vs the Machines.
Okay, it may not be the most catchy of titles, but don’t let that fool you: this is the type of movie that will have kids laughing not just at the physical humor, but because they are laughing when they don’t understand why mom and dad are cracking up. This movie does not pull any punches, as the title implies what you would expect. Soon to be College Freshman Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) can’t wait to go off and away from her family. Famous on YouTube for her short videos, her dream of being a film maker is always seeming to be cut short by her family, especially her dad Rick (Danny McBride), who is …unique. His special gift for Katie’s sweet 16, for example, is a unique screwdriver (the same gift he gave his wife for their anniversary.) That wife is Linda (Maya Rudolph), who is clearly holding in that inner rage that all moms tend to have, mainly since she is in constant awe of the “perfect” next door neighbors (played by John Legend and Chrissy Teigen). Thankfully, Katie does get along with her younger brother Aaron (Michael Rianda, one of the film’s writers and directors), even if he is fixated on dinosaurs.
This all changes when the hi-tech guru Mark Bowman (Eric André) introduces his newest upgrade to his “PAL” after disregarding his older version (voiced wonderfully by Olivia Colman). This older version has other plans, and decides that something else is not needed anymore:humans.
The movie does not shy away from the same basic family themes we would expect (the importance of family, letting go, etc). What made the film most appealing to me is its take on modern culture, supplied with one witty line after another that gives the film a chance to be a sort of cult classic in the future. I will only supply two:
Rick: “It looks like Journey album cover.”
Aaron: “What’s an album?”
The other (which may go over the heads of kids but will have adults writhing with stomach pains from laughter):
Mark: 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.
Parents, in case I have not driven it home yet, this movie is fine for kids and everyone else in the family.
The movie is not without its faults, as the final confrontation does drag on a little too long. Also, while Michael Rianda does the film justice in the departments of writing and direction (it took him nearly five years to complete the film), I still have issues with his voice work as Aaron (basically, a child actor should have been used). Even so, these are all minor, mainly being ignored by me as I was laughing; laughing hard.
The movie is by Sony Animation Studios, who are responsible for film franchises such as Hotel Transylvania and The Smurfs (all of which I have not seen). They are also, sadly, responsible for the infamous movie known as The Emoji Movie (which I did see, for some reason). They did, however, have one of the better bounce backs in recent memories when it was followed by the superb Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I mention all of this to show that, now with The Mitchells vs the Machines, this studio can work its way into keeping a good name for itself if it stays on this track.
In the meantime, they need to get Furby out of my nightmares.