[REVIEW] ‘The Mitchells vs the Machines’ Vacation Meets the End of the World

It’s funny to think not that long ago Sony Pictures Animation was the bottom of the animation totem pole. With the release of The Emoji Movie in 2017 they hit their proverbial low point and since then it’s been all uphill from there! The smartest choice they made was to hitch their wagon to producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who had worked with them previously in the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films.

Then just a year later they produced (and Phil Lord wrote) the groundbreaking film Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse which blew me away and won the Academy Award for Best Best Animated Feature of 2018! What a turnaround!

Now Lord and Miller are back producing with Sony a film that was supposed to go to theaters in 2020 the family dramedy adventure The Mitchells vs the Machines and even though it is going to Netflix it is a gem and you don’t want to miss it.

I loved this film so much that I immediately bought the art book (ad) after watching it. It is such a special movie the whole family will love, and I will be shocked if it isn’t in my top 10 of 2021.

The Mitchells vs the Machines (formerly titled Connected) tells the story of the Mitchell family who are struggling to accept change as the oldest daughter Katie (Abbie Jacobson) is going off to college. She has always dreamed of going to film school and after getting into the school she most wanted to attend she is ready to ditch her family and move on. This is particularly tough for her Dad (Danny McBride) who decides to make a family trip of the event so he can spend a few more weeks with his daughter (much to her chagrin). The only problem is the cell phones revolt and the robots turn on the humans. All mayhem results.

On the surface family shenanigans can dip into sitcom territory rather quickly. However, here the characters are so charming including Mom (Maya Rudolph) and brother Aaron (Mike Rianda) who I loved so much. Even the dog Monchi is hilarious along with the 2 adopted robot Mitchell family members. The script is so good. It’s funny, sweet, heartfelt and surprising. Obviously we know the Mitchells will win but the journey is such a fun ride (forgive the pun).

One of my favorite parts of the script is the whole family learns and grows and forgives each other. I finished watching the movie thinking ‘who couldn’t relate to this film?’. I certainly could. I especially related to Katie because there was nothing I wanted more than to get out of my house when I was 17 and ready to go to college. My Mother had just had a baby and I wanted out of there!

I could also relate to all the trips we used to take with my Dad getting so excited about rocks and the rest of us thinking he was nuts LOL. That’s the dynamic here in The Mitchells vs the Machines. Again, who can’t relate to that?

The script isn’t the only strength to The Mitchells vs the Machines. The animation is absolutely spectacular. If you liked the hybrid CGI/2D feel of Spider-verse you’ll love the animation here. It’s obviously a little more grounded in style but the way it uses color and movement is brilliant. Like I said, I bought the art book after seeing it and I’m dying to learn more about how they created the stunning animation.

Most importantly The Mitchells vs the Machines is charming. The characters are great. The story is great. The music and animation are great. I loved it and I hope you will too. It’s funny and about the American family. I hope we get a whole series with the next film a story from Aaron’s perspective. Please more from the Mitchells!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

A Look at the Animated Oscars 2019

This year the lead up to the Oscars has been more than a little bit of a mess. Whether it is an announcement for ‘best popular film’ category or the choice to not air categories like editing and cinematography. However, what has been relatively drama free is who will win the Best Animated Feature Film award. This is perhaps surprising as the 5 nominees are all very strong films yet a clear winner has emerged in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

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Let’s start with the least likely to win, Mirai, from famed director Mamoru Hosoda. It’s actually a huge accomplishment for Mirai to be nominated, as it is the first non-Studio Ghibli film to receive such an honor (a designation very frustrating to those of us who loved snubbed films like Your Name and A Silent Voice). And fortunately it is not just a token nomination as the film is a sweet journey into childhood. Recently my friend David said it was ‘the most creative animated film he had seen this year’ and he hates anime!

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Our next most likely contender to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars comes from Disney in a rare Disney Canon sequel called Ralph Breaks the Internet. This sequel to 2012’s Wreck-it Ralph avoids the potholes of most sequels by giving us something entirely new and it worked for me even better than the original! I loved the evolution of Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship and how they had to accept each other in new ways. I loved the humor especially the princesses (which I didn’t think I’d like) and we even got a surprise Alan Menken song! Still because it is a sequel and the response to it was dampened a bit by the release of Spider-Verse, it is unlikely to win (although never count Disney out entirely!).

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Coming up in 3rd place of most likely to win the Oscar is our stop motion animated offering from Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs. Earlier in the year I speculated whether this was the most likely winners as the Oscars doesn’t tend to like sequels or animated superhero movies (and it has a long standing tradition of loving both Wes Anderson and stop motion). It’s such a sweet enchanting movie with incredible attention to detail. I love all of the dogs and the backgrounds are dazzling (the one pictured made out of pieces of glass is a particular favorite). However, the human sections aren’t as strong and some of the writing is a little clunky. Still, a delightful film from 2018 animation.

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My prediction for the runner up for the Oscar this year is Brad Bird’s follow up to his 2004 superhero film, The Incredibles 2. I love this movie and in any other year this would be a clear favorite. It’s not only funny with terrific action but it is a treatise on how hard it is to be a parent. Even Edna Mode says it best: ‘parenting when done well is a heroic act’. The reason I don’t think Incredibles 2 will win is because it hasn’t won any awards prior to the Oscars. Spider-Verse has won every major prize from the Golden Globes to the BAFTA’s. It would take a very bold ballot to pick this film to win but it wouldn’t be the first time Pixar has surprised everyone (Brave…) if it did. Still it would be a big shocker if it won.

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Finally, the clear favorite and most likely to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This isn’t just my opinion, but the opinion of critics, fans, and experts alike. In fact, there are a number of other publications out there that see Into the Spider-Verse as an incredible favorite. Like I said, it would be a huge shock if it didn’t win. It is not only a game changer for animated films and superhero movies, it also speaks to the Academy’s goals to honor diversity both on and off the screen. It honestly should have been nominated for Best Picture in my and many others opinions.

So what do you think of the animated Oscar race this year? Am I too bullish on Spider-Verse? Do you agree with me it has been a strong year for the category? What other predictions are you making for this year’s Oscars? I’d love to hear in the comments section.