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"THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES"
(2021) (voices of Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Computer Animated: Sci-Fi/Comedy: A dysfunctional family tries to save the world after robots have taken control.
PLOT:

Katie Mitchell (voice of ABBI JACOBSON) is a high school senior who can't wait to attend film school across the country. That's not only because making movies is her passion, but also because she's tired of clashing with her anti-technology father, Rick (voice of DANNY MCBRIDE), who believes she's setting herself up for failure and disappointment, much to the chagrin of his wife, Linda (voice of MAYA RUDOLPH), and Katie's younger, dinosaur-loving brother, Aaron (voice of MIKE RIANDA).

Hoping to make amends for his past behavior, Rick cancels Katie's plane ticket and informs her that the entire family will be taking a cross-country road trip one last time. That doesn't sit well with her, and while she tries to fake her way through enjoying that, the unimaginable happens. And that's when personal assistant robots created by PAL Labs CEO Dr. Mark Bowman (voice of ERIC ANDRE) decide to take over the world and capture all the pesky humans.

Their leader is PAL (voice of OLIVIA COLMAN), Mark's original virtual assistant that he discarded in favor of his new robots. With the Mitchells being the only humans who managed to avoid capture, they try to put their differences aside to save the day. With the help of two damaged robots -- Deborahbot 5000 (voice of FRED ARMISEN) and Eric (voice of BECK BENNETT) -- that are no longer following PAL's commands, they set out to upload a kill code that will deactivate PAL and her robotic minions.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10

Show me a family that says it's always in positive harmony and I'll point out that they're lying and/or faking it. And that's because based on people being people, there will be conflicts, frayed nerves, arguments, fights, and so on. And if teenagers are involved, that only adds fuel to the fires of discord.

That's bad enough on a regular day, but imagine having to deal with that when -- oh, I don't know -- the robot apocalypse is going down. That's the premise of "The Mitchells vs. The Machines," a terrific, mostly computer-animated offering that has plenty of heart, laughs and action all stirred together into a highly satisfying mix. And yes, one the entire family can watch together. Notwithstanding the potential for some random outliers, it's an offering that everyone in the house will probably find to be terrific.

As written and directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, we meet the titular family in the middle of the apocalypse where they appear the least likely to save the day as they accidentally mow down some robots in their old station wagon. The story then rewinds a few days to high school graduate Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) who's just learned she's been accepted to film school across the country. She's a nerd, just like her younger brother, Aaron (Mike Rianda), but while he's a geek into all things dinosaur-related, she's the same but with movies, most of which feature their pet dog appearing in various genre spoofs.

While she has the support of her mom, Linda (Maya Rudolph), her techno-dismissive father, Rick (Danny McBride), hasn't watched one of her films and thinks she's on a path to failure and disappointment, something he has no reluctance with verbally sharing. That's led them to be on the outs and she can't wait to escape to be with her kind of people. But when he realizes she's giving away her once-favorite toy that also holds a separate special meaning to him, he realizes he must make amends.

And thus he cancels her plane ticket and much to her horror has decided to drive her and the rest of the family cross-country for some bonding time. And somewhere in the middle of that, the robots created by PAL Labs CEO Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) decide to go all rogue, led by his previous but now cast away personal assistant, PAL (Olivia Coleman). With the Mitchells somehow being the only family that eludes being captured by the bots, they must try to put their differences behind them and figure out a way to save the world.

A film that proudly wears its love for outcasts, weirdos, geeks, creative types and dysfunctional families -- warts and all -- on its sleeves, the offering zips through its nearly two-hour runtime, occasionally taking breathers for its more poignant and touching moments.

While the animation is good (notwithstanding some funny but odd inclusions of non-animated material that will likely make it ineligible for Best Animated Film at next year's Oscars), the comedy downright funny at times, and the action decently handled, it's the characters -- and the terrific vocal work behind them -- that really makes the flick work.

By the time the fun end credits were rolling by, I felt like I knew and understood the family members and wanted to spend more time with the entire clan, something I only usually say about the best animated features. This is certainly one of them, with the benefit being it could show families that being dysfunctional is both okay and survivable. For that and the rest of its stellar qualities, "The Mitchells vs. The Machines" rates as a 7.5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 26, 2021 / Posted April 30, 2021


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