The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021) ☆☆☆(3/4): One wacky family adventure

Animation feature film “The Mitchells vs. the Machines”, which was released on Netflix on last Friday, is wacky, speedy, and colorful from the beginning to the end, and it may be pretty dizzy and exhausting for some of you. As a matter of fact, I happened to watch it right after Indian film “The Disciple” (2020), and watching the former right after the latter, which is quite dry, slow, and calm to say the least, was akin to getting a sudden shock into the system even before arising from a serene meditation.

After the frantic opening sequence which quickly introduces us to its main characters one by one, the story promptly goes back to when things were quite normal for them a few days ago. Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), a teenage girl who has been aspiring to be a filmmaker, was excited about finally going to a film school in LA where she can pursue her dream and ambition more, and her father Rick (voiced by Danny McBride) and her mother Linda (voiced by Maya Rudolph) were certainly glad about that, but, like any other caring dad, Rick wanted to spend more time with his daughter, especially after reminded again of the considerable gap between them.

So, without telling anything to his daughter in advance, Rick concocts a surprise plan with some support from his wife and their little son Aaron (voiced by director/co-writer Mike Rianda). Instead of having Katie go to LA by airplane, he makes her join the weeklong family road trip from their home in Michigan to LA, and Katie is understandably not so pleased about that for good reasons. After all, she wants to get away from her home as soon as possible, and, though she loves her father as well as her other family members, spending more time with her father is the last thing she wants at present.

Anyway, their family trip turns out to be fairly eventful mainly thanks to Rick’s numerous unwise decisions including the one involved with food poisoning, and Katie comes to have some fun as waiting for their eventual arrival at her film school in LA, but then something quite serious suddenly happens. When Dr. Mark Bowman (voiced by Eric Andre), the founder of a very influential Silicon Valley company not so different from Microsoft or Apple, introduces the new version of his popular virtual assistant application, millions of robots operated by this AI app unexpectedly become very hostile to all the human beings around the world, and Bowman belatedly comes to learn of the evil plan of the mastermind behind it, who has understandably been quite angry at him.

As the world is completely turned upside down because of those unstoppable robots ready to capture any human being on their sight, the Mitchells certainly look helpless, but, of course, they come to rise to the occasion more than once. Although they are still your average dysfunctional family, they stick together as much as they can under Katie’s plan, and they also get some unexpected help from two robots who happen to acquire sort of free will due to their accidental malfunction.

After that narrative point, the screenplay by Rianda and his co-writer Jeff Rowe hurls more actions and gags into the screen, and the result is pretty busy and kinetic but undeniably funny and entertaining despite that. I must confess that I do not think I got all the jokes in the film during my viewing, but the film keeps holding my attention even during the busiest moment thanks to its irrepressible spirit coupled with a zany sense of humor, and it also allows me to have some good chuckles during a number of satiric moments including the one involved with Wi-Fi.

In addition, the film also makes us care about the rambunctiously dynamic relationships among the Mitchells, who are as broad as you can expect from animation characters but become more lovable as we get to know them via their bumpy quest for saving the humanity. While Katie and Aaron are smart and colorful in each own way, Rick and Linda have each own eccentricity, and I will not deny that I had a big guffaw when Linda shows her hidden strength during the climactic part. I will not go into details here for not spoiling your fun, but I can tell you instead that I was quite amused by the unlikely reference to a certain Quentin Tarantino film.

The voice cast members of the film are excellent on the whole. While Abbi Jacobson is perky and lively as required by her role, Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph ably balance their characters between humor and sincerity, and Mike Rianda is also solid as the fourth member of the Mitchells. In case of the other cast members, Eric Andre, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, and Conan O’Brien bring extra humor and colorfulness to the film, and Olivia Colman, who can be quite funny in addition to being very serious as shown from her recent Oscar-nominated supporting turn in “The Father” (2020), has lots of juicy fun as the main villain of the story.

In conclusion, “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is sometimes a little too busy and frantic in my humble opinion, but it mostly succeeds in generating plenty of laughs as cheerfully and energetically bouncing from one narrative point to another. I am willing to watch it again someday, but I will probably pause it more than once just for appreciating more of its numerous gags and references, and I have no problem with that. After all, that is what Netflix is for, isn’t it?

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