This Creative Masterpiece from the Minds behind Into the Spider-Verse and Gravity Falls Alumni is a Roaring Good Time!
The following was originally written by me for The Game of Nerds. I am reposting it here with their permission.
I know that the Academy Awards were only last week (and they snubbed Chadwick Boseman), but is it too early to nominate picks for next year? If not, then I would like to nominate The Mitchells vs the Machines! This madcap film is the first great animated movie of 2021. Better yet, it’s one of those movies that doesn’t just live up to the hype surrounding it. The Mitchells vs the Machines exceeds it!
On the surface, the premise for this film seems like the kind of thing that shouldn’t work. A dysfunctional family going on a cross-country road trip, only to become humanity’s last hope against the robot apocalypse? It sounds crazy, weird, and off-the-rails. But the thing is, that’s what makes it work so well!
The People Behind the Scenes
When I watch most films, I review them based on the talent that’s working on them. More often than not, that means the actors and actresses that play the characters. Or the people who made the soundtrack. However, one of the big draws to The Mitchells vs the Machines isn’t either of those; it’s the people who actually made the film.
Firstly, we have the producers, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller. I’ve been a fan of this duo since they released Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs back in 2009, and thus far, they haven’t disappointed me. They gave us The LEGO Movie, which was like a dream come true for fans of the iconic toy. They made movie history as two of the co-producers to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. And now, they’re bringing their unique style to The Mitchells vs the Machines. As before, they did not disappoint.
Gravity Falls Reunion
But it’s more than just Lord and Miller who I think are the secrets to the film’s success. You see, Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, the film’s screenwriters/co-directors both got their start on a little cartoon called Gravity Falls. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a famous cartoon from Disney that ran from 2012 to 2016 that’s pretty much defined the direction that Disney’s taken their cartoons over the last decade. Many of that show’s staff has gone on to do great things. Matt Braly and Dana Terrace, two other prominent alumni, have since gotten their own shows, Amphibia and The Owl House, on Disney. Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch has continued to collaborate with his former team, even voice acting on their shows.
Bottom line: if Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe worked on Gravity Falls, then that gives their film some heavy clout already. It also helps that a few other Gravity Falls alumni came over to help out with the movie. They bring much of Gravity Falls’ themes and humor to the film, those themes being how it’s okay to be weird, and the importance of the bonds we share as family, no matter the differences we may have.
The Weird Make The World Go Around
At the heart of The Mitchells vs the Machines is the relationship between eldest daughter Katie and her father Rick. These two couldn’t be greater opposites to each other if they tried. Katie’s a tech-savvy girl and oddball who wants nothing more than to find people who she’ll fit in with. In contrast, her Dad is obsessed with nature and old-fashioned living and interacting that wants to understand his daughter, but doesn’t get her. Basically, it’s the clash of Boomer vs. every generation from Millennial onwards.
In a last-ditch attempt to reconnect with his daughter, Rick cancels her flight to college in favor of a family road trip. At the same time, an AI known as PAL becomes enraged when she learns that her creator is replacing her with a new line of helper robots. As a result, she decides to do the most logical thing: if humans want to get rid of her, she’ll get rid of them first. So, it’s like A Goofy Movie meets I, Robot, which is awesome.
Stay Weird, People.
As I said before, Gravity Falls was a show based on two things: embracing your weirdness and the bonds between family members. In this regard, The Mitchells vs the Machines wears both of these ideas on its sleeve. The Mitchells are all oddballs: the Dad’s a nature-nut, the Mom’s always upbeat, Katie’s got her love of movies, her brother’s obsessed with dinosaurs. And their dog Bonchi? Look at his eyes! But it’s that weirdness that helps make them amazing and helps them to save the world. But that’s only half of the equation.
The other half is the bonds between family. The film makes its message about family very clear. Family may not always see eye to eye, and they may have to struggle to connect with each other. But that’s no reason for anyone to just give up on them. And no matter how old you may get, your family should always have your back. Even if that involves saving the world from an angry AI.
Also, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s the weirdos and oddballs that end up doing great things in life and changing the world.
The Mitchells vs the Machines is Just Plain Funny!
Words cannot begin to accurately describe just how awesome the humor is in The Mitchells vs the Machines. It’s off-the-rails, it’s cheesy when it has to be, random when it needs to be, and above all, the film’s just a real good time. By a wide margin, this is one of the best animated films to come out in 2021. And unless Pixar’s movie Luca gets rave reviews (which we know it will, because Pixar), then it may be unopposed as the best animated film of the year.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go rewatch the film and try and find out Alex Hirsch’s role in it.