Killer robots bringing on the end of the world is not something usually seen in a family-friendly animated comedy, but with The Mitchells vs The Machines, that thrilling post-apocalyptic element is the backdrop for what is perhaps the sweetest and most endearing film of the year, Packed with zany comedy, epic actions sequences that would make Michael Bay scream with pleasure, and with a ton of emotional heart that brings it back to the basics of family and a father/daughter relationship, this new animated film from Sony can stand right next to the best of Pixar with its sweet sentiments and beautiful visuals. The Mitchells vs The Machines is simply phenomenal on all accounts.
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Co-written and directed by Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe (Gravity Falls, Disenchantment), this fantastic story came to life with the help of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie), serving as producers on the film that blend different genres perfectly together with some amazing movie references and terrific vocal performances throughout. The film is extremely self-aware and follows the Mitchell family, led by Rick (Danny McBride), an outdoorsman who loves camping, fishing, and anything to do with the outdoors. His wife Linda (Maya Rudolph), a hip, fun 1st-grade teacher, and he have two kids, Katie (Abbi Jacobson), an 18-year-old high-school graduate who is gearing up for her first semester of film school in California, and her little brother Aaron (Rianda), who is an awkward middle school kid who lives and breathes everything dinosaurs. They seem like the model family, however, Katie is into technology, filmmaking, and movies, where her father is only interested in building and fixing objects made out of wood or camping. The two have grown apart and rarely talk with each other anymore and don't seem to take much interest in the other's hobbies or life. After a mishap of their last dinner together that upsets Katie, Rick decides the family will road trip across the country in their decades-old station wagon to drop off Katie at school, instead of having her fly via plane there.
Meanwhile, a big tech company similar to Apple is about to unveil a new smartphone and operating system, replacing the old friendly version of Siri with an actual robot with arms and legs that can clean, make food, answer calls, and even dance. Once the big announcement is made, things go awry and every new mobile phone robot comes to life with terror and destruction in its database and rounds up every human on Earth to shoot them into space to their untimely deaths. Luckily, The Mitchell family has somehow managed to escape and bypass being seen by the robots and are the last surviving humans on the planet, where they race against the clock to try and reverse this apocalyptic outcome.
Throughout the film, there are precious little moments between Katie and each of her family members, where she is navigating how to fit in and keep them happy. Growing up in her suburban neighborhood, Katie was the outcast, always making fun home movies with her brother and cute dog, where really none of her friends cared less for that type of art, let alone her father. But as the film goes on, she realizes that her new friends at university will of course have the same creative genius as her, but she'll deep down be the wild and zany Mitchell, just like her father and mother. The film never underplays these emotions of family members leaving the house or sacrificing dreams to take care of a family, and it feels natural and organic every step of the way, just like when Rick teaches Katie how to drive a stick shift, or where they are honest with each other about understanding their need to pursue goals and find themselves. There really is a lot of fantastic emotional drama here that mixes perfectly well with the chaotic comedy and action sequences that are on a grand scale.
There's also a lot to say about how much humans use technology and everyone's dependence on it on a daily basis and how bad that can be for every aspect of life. It's never too on the nose, but it brings up great questions that evoke similarities to The Matrix and The Terminator. The comedy though is laugh-out-loud funny with mostly adult humor that sticks the landing every time, complete with some fantastic Quinton Tarantino references. Each and every actor turns in believable and emotional voice performance with some additional cameos from Eric Andre and Conan O'Brien to name a couple. The music and visuals are wonderful and a little different than expected, which is refreshing and unique. The Mitchells vs The Machines is an absolute blast with a ton of heart and emotion. It's a MUST-SEE!