Directed By Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe
Starring – Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph
The Plot – An animated action-comedy about an ordinary family who find themselves in the middle of their biggest family challenge yet…saving the world from the robot apocalypse. No big deal, right? It all starts when creative outsider Katie Mitchell (Jacobson) is accepted into the film school of her dreams and is eager to leave home and find “her people,” when her nature-loving dad insists on having the whole family drive her to school and bond during one last totally-not-awkward-or-forced road trip. But just when the trip can’t get any worse, the family suddenly finds itself in the middle of the robot uprising. Everything from smart phones, to roombas, to evil Furbys are employed to capture every human on the planet. Now it’s up to the Mitchells, including upbeat mom Linda (Rudolph), quirky little brother Aaron (Michael Rianda), their squishy pug, Monchi, and two friendly, but simple-minded robots to save humanity.
Rated PG for action and some adult language
– Imaginative animation. The on-going war for control over animated domination grows a bit closer with Sony Pictures Animation’s newest offering, which vividly lends itself to three-dimensional expression as the result of a cross breed of two distinctly ambient styles. The hybrid of computer generation and hand-drawn nostalgia bridges a colorfully rich and intoxicating blend in a 1.85:1 ratio that immediately and continuously captures attention from the very first stroke, and gives way to an overall aesthetic presentation that illustrates the world within the film with a satisfying balance of futuristic style with cultural substance effectively. The focus in eye-fetching detail is impressive enough, but when you compliment it with a wide range of emotional resonance in the movements of the characters, allowing for undisturbed connection to them to maintain focus, you have a scheme for style that creatively distinguishes itself from any other studio going today, garnering page leaping emphasis with a creative focus accordingly.
– Talented ensemble. Listing the names of the cast in the header of this review is only a spoonful of the impressive bigger picture that makes up the collection of these recognizable personalities disappearing in the quirks and nuances of their respective characters. McBride is definitely the case for this cause, as his sternly sarcastic usual demeanor is exchanged for a raw energy that articulates the corniness of middle aged manhood, complete with lukewarm jokes and expressions for technological advances that he feels a bit too outdated for. In addition to Danny, I also loved the work of Maya Rudolph and Abbi Jacobson as the heartfelt bond of this family as a mother and daughter respectively. Rudolph’s timely delivery for comedy is only surpassed by her emotional depth as a mother of two in real life, herself, and Jacobson’s eager adventurist comes across candidly in a world she’s ambitiously yearning to attack in real life, as the movie’s protagonist. Rounding out the complimentary bunch are scene-stealing turns from Eric Andre, Fred Armisen, Conan O’Brien, and even a vocal menace from the national treasure, Olivia Colman, as the movie’s primary antagonist.
– Timely accepting. While probably not a big deal for a majority of the audience, the desire for the production to include a main character who is openly gay to the forefront of the picture, is one I applaud greatly for the progressive responsibility that animated studios are just now incorporating, unfortunately. What’s impressive is that it’s unapologetically mentioned, yet it never has to become a source for subplot within the film itself to dominate the movie’s creativity. This character is accepted in the eyes of their family without explanation, which in turn provides its own grasp for nourishing social commentary, and allows the film and its message of inclusion and family first ideals to be led by example in the form of its own material, thus allowing a more easily identifiable experience for a bigger piece of the proverbial audience pie.
– Rampant humor. Beyond this being the best kids movie that I have seen this year, it’s also very much in the discussion for being the best comedy of the year, and that’s because of some overly ambitious material with an consistent effectiveness that constantly kept my gut hurting for all of the right reasons. Proving to the depth from screenwriters Rianda and Rowe are a series of gags, visual and vocal, that breed no shortage of creativity, and give the film a fine sampling of accommodating humor that pleasantly serves all sides of the age gap that makes up its audience. What’s most beneficial to me personally is that the film doesn’t rely on lazy writing in the form of cringey puns and immature bodily humor to make up the bulk of its material. It’s very much in tuned with what works about outlining the quirks of its characters with the lunacy of their addiction to technology, satirizing it in a way that feels fresh and in tuned with its own creativity, unlike films like “The Emoji Movie” and “Wreck it Ralph 2”, which use it as a crutch for sequelitis.
– Leaving his Mark. Musical composer Mark Mothersbaugh has always been one of my personal favorite music maestro’s, not only for the way he prides himself on a series of eclectic genre’s and tastes, but also in the way he audibly channels the ingredients of an environment that come across in his experimental compositions. As is such, Mothersbaugh spins a barrage of synth heavy instrumentals and pop heavy favorites of the contemporary age to balance the two sides of human and android that make up the movie’s sides in its primary conflict. The synth tones themselves reflect a rich unraveling that takes the track to definitions that are anything but repetitive, all the while playing into the eerily ominous monotony of its world-ending presence. The radio friendly tracks themselves do purposely play into the outdated emphasis of their imagining’s, doing so to intentionally play into the brunt of the punchlines of the jokes that they’re being deposited in.
– Dramatic contrast. Despite the majority of this film being of the comical classification, complete with a conflict involving invading androids that literally and figuratively feels out of this world, there’s a dramatic depth to the material that feels very much grounded and enriched for the sentimentality of a family narrative. What’s most unique about this aspect is it unveils itself simultaneously with the story of the androids themselves, striking out a similarity that equally illustrates the discontent in both sides. The androids themselves continuously feel disparaged by society that is constantly looking to upgrade, while the life of a teenager selfishly restricts family to the back of the line with age. Then, once the resolution materializes towards the film’s climax, it’s interesting to see how those elements are then reintroduced by pulling back references previously that were family related in context, but serve a bigger purpose when used as a weapon that now bonds them. It’s entertainingly meaningful cinema that takes pride in valuing the bond and importance of family to each of us, supplanting no shortage of heart to the experience that enriches it so much more.
– Tonal shifts. In a lesser quality film, and one not produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the same men who directed and produced the mayhem instilled in “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”, the pacing and spontaneity of the material and sharp tonal shifts would compromise and even dampen the effect of the material. However, here it feels consistently justified and kept within the realm of easily digestible interpretation, despite the fact that there is a lot going on in the struggle for power between these two respective sides. When you look at a film like “The Lego Movie”, it’s smart and consistently entertaining, but often one that jumps off of the rails fast in terms of its humor and grounded attempts to tell a story. It’s often more invested in the fantastical instead of the practical, and while “The Mitchells Vs The Machines” candy coats layers of color and vibrancy in its presentation, it is still very much a grounded narrative that satirically pokes fun at our addiction to technology, and what it’s costing us in the foreground of our lives. It’s a story that’s incredibly easy to get lost in, but also one that is easy to take a lot away from, morally, cementing a quality that is every bit entertaining as it is knowledgeable for impressionable minds.
– Identifiable. The entirety of characterization for this film is sensational, especially in fleshing out and valuing each and every member of this family in a way that makes each of them vital to the ensuing subplot. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t value Katie more than all of them, for the way her traits as a character more than relate to the kind of character who I would be in an animated film. While we have some distinct differences, I love Katie’s enthusiasm for cinema, especially the way the movie uses the establishing scenes as a means to flourish her creativity. In addition to this, Katie, with family in tow, sets out on a cross country journey to discover who she is, and how to fill the void from within that has been missing while remaining in the safe zone of her hometown. It’s especially rare that I connect to a character in this way, especially an animated one, but I found so much versatility and redeeming value to her character that really makes her the ideal protagonist in a film, and one who I wish finds her happiness long after the film concludes.
– Predictable. We still haven’t had an animated kids movie that has made drop my jaw in suspense the same way that live action properties of every genre has previously done. That’s not to diminish the entertainment value of “The Mitchells Vs The Machines”, just that I wish the ending explored the avenues of unpredictability and ominous hints of its apocalyptic trailer that it initially did construct for itself. Especially considering there are some unconventional methods of storytelling during the movie’s second act that capture my attention, it falls by the way of the film’s climax, failing to address some of the unaddressed avenues of consequences that come at the hands of the movie’s primary antagonist, and instead pads itself with a safety net of conventionalism tied together a bit too neatly for my taste.
My Grade: 9/10 or A