There’s no shortage of family road trip movies out there, but The Mitchells vs. The Machines manages to add its own high-stakes twist: the robot apocalypse.
Meet Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson), an aspiring filmmaker with boundless creativity. She’s often at odds with her outdoorsy father Rick (Danny McBride), who doesn’t understand her films. To fix the rift that’s opened between them over the years, Rick sets up a Mitchell family road trip to take Katie to college. Along for the ride are Katie’s dinosaur-crazy younger brother Aaron (writer and director Mike Rianda), Mitchell matriarch Linda (Maya Rudolph as the best cartoon mother named Linda since Bob’s Burgers), and family pug Monchi (Doug the Pug). Katie is horrified at the thought of taking this road trip and missing college orientation, but she (along with the rest of her family) is even more horrified when evil robots begin kidnapping people.
That’s right. While the Mitchells have been driving cross-country, tech genius and $1000 hoodie-wearer Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) has introduced a line of robot servants. Unfortunately for Mark and literally everyone else on Earth, these robots turn evil and begin to do the bidding of vengeful operating system PAL (Olivia Colman). Only the Mitchells manage to hide in time. Now, it’s up to the world’s weirdest family to put a stop to the robot uprising and save humanity.
The ensuing journey is full of fun, adventure, and its fair share of tearjerking emotional breakthroughs. Even though this is a movie about robots threatening to destroy life as we know it, The Mitchells vs. The Machines takes time to focus on the humans at its core. I dare you not to tear up when Katie and Rick watch old home movies and remember how close they used to be, or when Aaron struggles with how eager Katie is to leave their home — and him — behind for college. Moments like these delve deep into the Mitchells’ relationships and emphasize how necessary it is to connect with and understand the people around you. Importantly, the movie also stresses that any relationship takes great care to maintain, but that the hard work to do so is always worth it.
It’s a lovely message bolstered by stellar performances from the cast. Their chemistry never falters, whether they’re delivering jokes or tugging at your heartstrings. Colman in particular is a treat as PAL: It is such a delight to hear her gleefully scream about taking down the humans who have poked and swiped her screen for years.
Even though this is a movie about robots threatening to destroy life as we know it, The Mitchells vs. The Machines takes time to focus on the humans at its core.
In addition to its strong story and characters, The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ animation is gorgeous and engaging, pulling you in from the moment the movie begins. An innovative combination of hand-painted illustrative work and more realistic CG sets the movie apart from other animated films, creating an end result that looks like a 3D watercolor painting. But the exciting animation choices don’t stop there. Since Katie is a filmmaker, the movie takes a lot of its visual cues from her artistic style and how she views the world. Her hyper-expressive drawings often appear over the film’s already finished frames, punctuating dialogue and key action sequences with superhero pugs, rainbows, cartoon versions of her family, and so much more. Katie’s drawings add a handmade feel to the movie, bringing even more uniqueness to an already distinctive animation style.
It’s clear that every frame is brimming with care and love for this project. The Mitchells’ world is so well-wrought, from the worn bumper stickers on their car to the notes scrawled on Katie’s hands. Visual gags and Easter eggs abound, including a secret robot language and classic movie references in Katie’s films. You’ll find yourself pausing and rewinding to catch every last detail and joke this movie throws at you.
Speaking of jokes, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is ridiculously funny. This is no surprise, considering the people behind the film. Rianda and his co-director and writer Jeff Rowe both worked on Gravity Falls, a show overflowing with off-the-wall bits. Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller are known for movies like The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, whose killer visuals and snappy humor are strongly echoed in The Mitchells vs. The Machines. Leave it to this team to come up with a nightmarishly huge Furby screaming, “Let the dark harvest begin!”
To catch evil Furby and countless other surprises, be sure to buckle up and join the Mitchells on the road trip to end all road trips. These lovable weirdos will make you laugh, cry, and hug your family a little closer.