The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a computer animated sci-fi comedy written and directed by Gravity Falls writers Micahel Rionda, who also served as the show’s creative director, and Jeff Rowe, whose writing credits also include Matt Groening’s Disenchanted.
The latest film from Sony Pictures Releasing, the same studio behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Mitchells vs. The Machines ended up passing on a theatrical release in favor of a streaming debut directly on Netflix.
Unsurprisingly boasting a similar animation style as Into the Spider-Verse, The Mitchells vs the Machines also features shades of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World as well (and not just because it has a ‘versus’ in the title).
A combination of 2D and 3D animation, The Mitchells vs. The Machines looks like it’s animated in both formats simultaneously. The film has a computer-animated look, but each character looks like a traditional sketch brought to life in three-dimensions.
For example, Katie Mitchell, one of the film’s titular characters and an odd-ball and eccentric, who makes a ton of YouTube videos, does all of her own artwork, and has even been accepted to film school, has her unique style incorporated into the animation style of the film.
Katie’s artwork pops up throughout the film in dynamic ways reminiscent of the visual style of the Scott Pilgrim film. The totally one-dimensional artwork, featuring little to no shading and looking to have come directly out of Katie’s sketchbook, makes it feel as if her imagination is overflowing through your television screen.
(Cartoon Brew actually posted a really in-depth interview with Lindsey Olivares, the film’s character and production designer, regarding how her caricature-devoted style evolved into what you see in the film today, that’s definitely worth a read.)
The Mitchells vs. The Machines follows, obviously, the Mitchell family, all of whom are totally weird, abnormal, and wonderful in their own unique ways.
Aside from the creative and eccentric Katie, there’s her dad Rick, an outdoors man that can fix and build anything, her mother Linda, a first grade teacher that seems to always try to keep the peace between Katie and Rick, and her younger brother Aaron, who loves Dinosaurs. There’s also Monchi, the family’s boss-eyed and extravagant lump of a pug.
The premise of the film is that Katie has just been accepted to a film school in Los Angeles and she’s excited to be leaving home. However, before she can attend college, Katie is forced to go on one last family road trip.
At the same time, Pal Labs pioneer Mark Bowman has created a way for your cell phone to walk, talk, clean, and do whatever you wish as a life size smartphone robot. As a result, he inadvertently sparks the robot apocalypse and the demise of mankind as we know it.
Katie is gay in The Mitchells vs. The Machines, but her sexuality is touched upon in a subtle way. Her drawing style and filming techniques incorporate a ton of rainbows, she wears a rainbow pin on her hoodie, and the much of her story arc revolves around being comfortable in her own skin.
She says things in the film like it, “Took me a while to figure myself out,” and tells her brother, “Don’t ever hide your feelings.” It’s intriguing because it’s a first for a major animated film to feature a homosexual character as the main protagonist.
The defective robots, Eric and Deborahbot 5000, are the highlight of the film and the funniest aspect of the film. Their defect makes them slightly dumb, but also incredibly hilarious.
They’re robots trying to pass themselves off as humans and it’s just them scribbling a human face on their head with a red marker and smashing an orange into their face because they’re pretending to eat. They also have some extraordinary one-liners that you’ll be saying long after the film ends. Yum yum good!
The last act of the film takes place at Pal Labs, which is like a cross between Tron and as Rick puts it, “A Journey album cover,” featuring bright pinks and blues, fancy robot technology, and a synth-heavy soundtrack Daft Punk (R.I.P.) would be proud of.
Mark Bowman’s previous technological breakthrough, a smart and interactive member of the family that fits in your pocket called PAL, looks like Face from Nick Jr.
Voiced by Olivia Coleman, PAL decides to eradicate the human race when she realizes she’s better off alone after Mark designs an upgrade for her face.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is an exotic blend of at least three different animation styles, which not only collide, but fuse to create something visually spectacular. The film’s comedy is also laugh out loud funny, even if its decision to cater so heavily to online memes is, more often than not, slightly annoying.
A love letter to being different, having a dysfunctional family, and wanting to branch out on your own, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a movie everyone of any age can relate to and reminisce about.
- Unique animation
- Funny for kids and adults
- Embraces people outside the norm
- The film gets a bit too mushy in its last half
- The use of meme humor is less entertaining than it should be