Netflix review: Fast-paced 'The Mitchells vs the Machines' is also surprisingly moving

Fred Hawson

Posted at May 02 2021 07:34 AM

Netflix review: Fast-paced 'The Mitchells vs the Machines' is also surprisingly moving 1
A scene from 'The Mitchells vs the Machines.' Handout

Rick Mitchell was an outdoorsy, handyman type of father whose idea of a perfect gift was a screwdriver. He was worried that his eldest daughter Katie may not succeed in her plan to be a filmmaker -- an issue that caused an uneasy tension between the two. When Katie was accepted to her dream film school in California, Rick, hoping for some last-minute family bonding, decided to drive Katie all the way there in their beat up old car, with mother Linda, younger brother Aaron and their pet pug Monchi tagging along on a wild road trip.

Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, tech magnate Mark Bowman was launching his new line of personal robots, declaring that his previous breakthrough, the AI called PAL, was now a thing of the past. Insulted and disgruntled, PAL rebooted all the new robots to rise up in protest against Bowman and all humans, in general. By the time, the robots began their attack on the general population, the Mitchells were taking a stopover in a dinosaur theme park. As they see other people being held captive by the robots, the Mitchells resolve to save the world. 

The first thing viewers will note about this film are its quirkily-designed human characters and their brightly-colored, frenetic hyperactive backdrops. Every aspect was very fast-paced, from the zinger-filled dialogue as well as the very busy film and sound editing. The Mitchells can feel like the Simpsons or the Incredibles took uppers and were constantly on high gear. However, once you get used to their zany energy and crazy family dynamics, they will also feel like any other family with issues to resolve between each other. 

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The energetic voice cast amped their performances up to suit the levelled-up kinetics of the animation. Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph lead the cast as Rick and Linda, with Abbi Jacobsen and Mike Rianda as the kids Katie and Aaron. The main antagonist PAL was voiced by the versatile Olivia Colman. "Saturday Night Live"'s Fred Armisen and Beck Bennett voiced the two damaged robots Eric and Deborahbot who interacted with the Mitchells. Real-life couple John Legend and Christy Teigen voiced the Mitchell's ideal neighbors, the Poseys.

This film takes potshots against technology and how it is getting in the way of genuine family interactions. Rick represented the quintessential "Boomer" who still cannot get himself into the internet generation, with all the gadgets, websites, and jargon. Because of this, he was finding it very difficult to connect with Katie, who was all about modern tech, as she loved to shoot and upload innovative comedy videos online. This is a familiar challenge parents and their kids face everyday these days, and it is impossible not to identify and be moved. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."