'The Mitchells Vs The Machines' (2021) Review: 21st Century Family
In high school, the thing to talk about with the same passion and fervour that I spoke about seeing ‘The Godfather’ for the first time at 12, was football. I distinctly remember trying to fake my way through conversations about Chelsea & Liverpool. Names that meant nothing to me since I knew neither their history nor their ability. The World Cup was always a Godsend because at least countries I could keep track of. Still, I always yearned to find people who I could get into long winded discussions about film and entertainment. There was a time when I would’ve given anything to care this much about anything else, but you can’t choose what you love.
I’d like to think my story of self love is pretty interesting, but it can’t top a dysfunctional family road trip coming of age story, set against a robot apocalypse, brought about by a sentient scorned smartphone for which hell hath no like fury. The honour of such an interesting story goes to Katie Mitchell, the main protagonist in the epic and wildly entertaining ‘The Mitchells vs The Machines’.
Katie, played by Abbi Jacobson, is the misunderstood oddball who goes to bed dreaming of seeing her name in lights – preferably for her work behind the camera. She sees the world through a filmmaker’s lens, a stark difference from her dud of a dad Rick, brought to life by Danny McBride, who sees the world through plain old horn rimmed glasses. The kind that were good enough for his father, and his father before him dammit. Katie and her dad are ideologically opposed. Where Katie sees technology as the tool kit for creativity, Rick sees a tablet as a soul sucking vortex from which there is no escape.
Their squabble is centre stage for this film, and as Katie is beside herself with excitement to finally go off to college and be among her like minded peers, Rick decides to give their relationship one last shot with a cross country road trip. Along for the ride are Katie’s dinosaur obsessed brother, played by Mike Rianda who is pulling double duty by also directing the film, and her excitable mom, played by Maya Rudolph, who can’t help but compare her family to the perfect one she scrolls past on instagram every day. Add an ugly dog and you have the world’s last hope against an AI uprising.
As their road trip goes south, the movie is continually full of surprises. ‘The Mitchells vs The Machines’ ups the ante throughout the film. It’s quite possibly the best comedy of the year, and manages to be utterly unique in its voice, even when it’s handling recycled concepts. The characters have a familiarity to them that works in their favour. In a sense The Mitchells are a typical family, but the film is anything but.
The visuals in the movie are dynamic. There’s a hand drawn grit that makes the more apocalyptic scenes downright unsettling. The fluorescent lighting in gas station convenience store makes part of the movie feel like a zombie film. Then as you’re presented the world of the machines, you see a neon ocean with a cybertronic all seeing skyscraper, like a futuristic land of mordor. Every frame of the film is bursting with creativity and excels at it.
The film is visually exceptional, and the characters have an unforgettable quality to them. The Mitchells feel like a classic family to watch on a sitcom for years to come. On top of that the writing is particularly good, knocking it out of the park with its humour and its heartfelt story. Whether it’s tears of joy or tears of sadness, Mitchells vs the Machines will have you shedding a few of either or both.
Rating: Big Screen Watch