(I almost decided to skip this last day of NaPoWriMo, being late once again, but it’s still April 30 on the West Coast, I suppose. The last prompt of April was for a poem giving directions, so mine is meant to lead to a happy family.)
There are many forks to family,
Where the road splits east and west,
Every one a chance to grow a bond
Or leave it cold and unexpressed.
Will you raise your voice or calm it,
Eye your child or your phone,
Repeat the things they want to hear
Or speak opinions of your own?
Take a left at dream-supporting,
Take a right at honesty,
And the forks will prove a straighter line
Than anyone on earth can see.
MPA rating: PG
Rarely do I watch a Netflix movie so soon after it is released, but I’ve been eager to see The Mitchells vs the Machines ever since it was known as Connected and supposedly coming out last year as a non-Netflix movie. And I don’t mind it being sold to a streaming giant (thanks again, COVID) since it allowed me to watch a fantastic movie from the comfort of my home. The warm-hearted, hyperkinetic love child of Gravity Falls writers (Mike Rianda, Jeff Rowe, who also directed together), The Lego Movie’s producers (Christopher Lord, Phil Miller), and Into the Spider-Verse’s animation company (Sony Pictures Animation), The Mitchells vs. the Machines is an animated blast making full use of the talents behind it.
On the surface, The Mitchells vs. the Machines could easily have lapsed into one-note laziness, its plot boiling down to “dysfunctional family must deal with robot apocalypse.” On top of that, it really does embrace a ton of cliches, from the stressed father-daughter relationship, to the main character’s “I’m different from everyone else” monologue, to the villain saying “I already have” when they’re told they’ll never get away with it. It’s really a testament to the writing that the film is so consistently hilarious and the characters so well-realized that its strengths completely outshine the apparent weaknesses.
Honestly, this movie made me laugh harder and more often than any other in recent memory, thanks to its sly repeated gags, social commentary, and cultural self-awareness. I have long been a fan of Gravity Falls so it’s about time its writers were given an even bigger budget with which to play. My love for animation was further fed by the wondrous 2D-3D mix that Into the Spider-verse pioneered; it’s not quite as frenetic as that film’s comic book extravagance (which I think is a good thing), though it still includes imaginary, sketch-like flourishes to highlight how the movie-loving Katie Mitchell sees the world. Plus, the soundtrack is awesome, culminating especially in the action climax.
Abbi Jacobson does a fine job as Katie, but Danny McBride as her dad, Maya Rudolph as her mom, and Olivia Colman as the AI taking over the world are pitch-perfect casting. (Rudolph’s Linda Mitchell also gets the greatest mother beast mode scene in film history.) And as I said, the script is filled with huge heart to go with its constant jokes, stressing the power of familial bonds and subverting the usual trope of only the parent needing to grow to improve the strained relationship. I can’t wait to see The Mitchells vs. the Machines again, and I sincerely hope this creative team can deliver more gems like this one.
Best line: (Katie, after her dad locks the car doors) “Yeah, that’ll keep the robots out.”
(Dad) “Hey, you don’t know. Maybe locks are the robots’ weakness.”
(Mom) “Guys, can’t we all just be terrified together as a family?”
(Dr. Mark Bowman, the Steve Jobs-ish creator of the AI) “I’m sorry about causing the whole machine uprising. It’s almost like stealing people’s data and giving it to a hyper-intelligent AI as part of an unregulated tech monopoly was a bad thing.”
© 2021 S.G. Liput
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