Movie: The Mitchells vs. the Machines 
Directors: Michael Rianda (Gravity Falls) & Jeff Rowe (Disenchantment)
With: Abbi Jacobson (Broad City), Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down), Maya Rudolph (Bridemaids), Eric André (Eric André Show)
Broadcast platform: Netflix
Duration: 113 minutes
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
The Mitchells vs The Machines is the latest film from Sony Pictures Animation. It’s about a dysfunctional family that embarks on a road trip to drop off their daughter at college. This premise sounds familiar at first, but the family (The Mitchells) soon find themselves in the middle of a robotic apocalypse (The Machines), and they just might be humanity’s most unlikely last hope.
This animated movie successfully combines different cinematic tropes, including the “road trip” movie, the “post-apocalyptic” movie, and most importantly, the “dysfunctional family” movie. The Mitchell family is at the center of the story, and over the course of the film, the dynamic of their relationship evolves and deepens. It’s a disconnected family learning to reconnect. The movie was almost titled “Connected,” and given the story, that makes sense.
The alternative title “Connected” could also refer to one of the film’s central themes: humanity versus technology. Modern technology is undoubtedly remarkable, but it also has the ability to alienate people from those around them, even if they are “connected” to people around the world. The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a tongue-in-cheek critique of our overreliance on technology, and it’s a movie that couldn’t have been made until 2021.
This film feels very much like the current moment and is relevant to our modern lives. At one point, the Wi-Fi is turned off in a town, and the film comically shows the townspeople going wild as if the world is ending. Although this is exaggerated, it is grounded in a certain sense of reality, particularly in terms of our reliance on technology for our daily lives.
The cast of voice actors is full of talented individuals. The central family unit consists of mother and father (voiced by the hilarious Maya Rudolph and Danny McBride), their daughter Katie (also hysterical Abbi Jacobson), and their son Aaron (co-director Michael Rianda). Avant-garde comedian Eric André plays the head of the tech company whose mistakes cause the robot apocalypse. Oscar winner Olivia Colman plays PAL, the leader of the Robot Rebellion. SNL Alumni Fred Armisen and current SNL cast member Beck Bennett play two of the robots who experiment with the idea of free will.
The film was produced by the extremely talented duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Still early in their careers, these two have already amassed an impressive filmography. They made Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street. They wrote and produced Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, for which they won an Oscar.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a film about the love of cinema. Katie Mitchell’s character has a passion for making her own movies and her desire is to go to film school to become a director. There are numerous references to other films throughout the film, some more subtle than others. Sometimes Katie directly references Mad Max, Dawn of the Dead and Ghostbusters. PAL’s character is a direct reference to HAL9000, the robot from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the most famous technology film about humanity.
There are other more subtle references to other films in The Mitchells vs. The Machines. Throughout the movie, we see some of Katie’s homemade movies with titles that reference classic films, including Dial B for Burger (Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder), Mochi: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) and Y Tu Papá Tambien (Y Tu Mamá También de Cuarón). In her bedroom, Katie has a “Mt. Rushmore of Director Heroes,” including Greta Gerwig, Celine Sciamma, Lynne Ramsay and Hal Ashby.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a heartfelt film about a family disconnecting and then reconnecting. It’s an inclusive film with a subtle LGBTQ history. All of the characters are well balanced with realistic qualities that are also quirky enough to make the movie entertaining. The film is fast-paced and full of stimulating visuals. I recommend it for the whole family. After watching it, you can turn to your loved ones and quote the movie saying “you are my people”.