Originally announced under the title “Connected – family connects”, the new Lord Miller production THE MITCHELLS AGAINST THE MACHINES The cinemas are on the left and head straight for the Netflix media library. A shame. We reveal why this is so in our review.
OT: The Mitchells vs. the Machines (USA/CAN/FR 2021)
Creative maverick Katie Mitchell has just been accepted into the film school of her dreams. She can hardly wait to move out of her parents’ house and finally meet like-minded people there. But her nature-loving father Rick thwarts her plans because he insists that the entire family accompany her on the way to college so that she can spend some time together again. Just when it seems like the road trip couldn’t get any worse, the family suddenly finds themselves in the middle of a robot uprising in which smartphones, robot vacuum cleaners and electronic toys, among other things, prey on people. Now it’s up to the Mitchells – including optimistic mother Linda, quirky little brother Aaron (Michael Rianda), pug Monchi and two friendly but simple robots – to save the world.
When the first trailer for “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” celebrated its world premiere around a year ago in March 2020, the animated film produced by “The LEGO Movie” veterans Phil Lord and Christopher Miller was still called “Connected” (in USA: “ Connected – family connects”) and should be released in cinemas worldwide on October 23rd. But as we all know, everything turned out very differently; In addition to many other productions, the Sony animation company’s 21st full-length animated film was repeatedly postponed as a result of the corona pandemic before the studio found a generous backer in Netflix at the beginning of this year – considering the still rather uncertain cinema to this day -Opening situation perhaps a more lucrative decision than waiting for a cinema release. And so it was agreed that “Connected” would be marketed immediately under its working title “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” and released at the end of April. For Sony Animations, this is the first collaboration with the streaming service – and given what the audience is deprived of through VOD exploitation, we hope to some extent it will be the last. It’s not for nothing that the “Mitchells” poster advertises that the film comes from the “Spider-Man: A New Universe” and “LEGO Movie” makers and thus announces an adventure that is once again full of visual gimmicks switches down three gears at the right moments to reveal the heart of this enchanting family odyssey. How much we wish we had seen this in the cinema!
Katie, Rick, Linda and Aaron Mitchell deal with robots running amok.
While the Lord Miller combo oversaw “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” as a producing duo, two film newcomers were responsible for the direction and script. Trick connoisseurs may be familiar with Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe; The two have already written scripts for numerous episodes of the acclaimed animated series “Welcome to Gravity Falls” and “Disenchantment”. Thanks to their many twisted meta-games and anarchic humor ideas, both formats were able to develop a broad (mainly adult!) fan base. For “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” a comparable comedy tone meets the same immense creative ingenuity and a varied aesthetic typical of Lord Miller along with a touching story core – the best of “Welcome to Gravity Falls”, “The LEGO Movie” and ” Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (Lord and Miller’s animated debut), so to speak. And a lot more approachable than usual, because with the eponymous Mitchell family, this time there are neither crazy inventors nor superheroes at the center of the action, but rather a father, a mother, their two children and a dog who are with the everlasting (and among other things alienation from each other caused by technology. The fact that the older daughter is moving out to study and her father, who misses his “little girl”, wants more family closeness again, is a fundamental conflict that is much more serious than the attack of the freely rotating robots, so that the script changes over the course of almost two hours in the quiet moments always remembering the importance of this family bond.
“For “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” a comparable comedy tone meets the same immense creative ingenuity and a varied aesthetic typical of Mord Miller along with a touching story core – the best of “Welcome to Gravity Falls”, “The LEGO Movie” and “Cloudy with a chance of meatballs,” so to speak.”
One would almost like to claim that “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” would have worked at least as well without the robot uprising involving all technical devices; The character drawing and family dynamics of the Mitchells, for example, are an event in themselves. Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe design a father-mother-child team that, on the one hand, has enough relatable problems and therefore identification potential, while at the same time it is whimsical enough to make the Mitchells truly unique – without focusing solely on theirs to reduce peculiarities. The eldest, Katie, is not just an ardent film fan and amateur director because she can do some excellent animation tricks over the course of the film. Above all, Katie’s passion stems from her being an outsider; The art is her Opportunity to communicate with the world. A cliché that has perhaps long been ridden to death, but which the makers behind “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” know how to dust off with lots of humor and speed. Just like the stereotype of the father who doesn’t want to let go, the mother who looks enviously at the “perfect neighbors” and Katie’s little brother Aaron, who prefers to call complete strangers to talk to them on the phone about dinosaurs. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is full of motifs that seem quite familiar at first. But it often only takes a few seconds before they are turned inside out.
Deborahbot 5000 and Eric join the Mitchells.
However, this only applies to a limited extent to the threat posed by the robot uprising. The idea of technology turning against its inventor – humans – has not only fed the Netflix series “Black Mirror” with new material for over five seasons. Even otherwise, stories about artificial intelligence often boil down to the ultimate battle between man and machine. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is no exception. Nevertheless, the what is far less important here than the how – and so Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe tighten the screw of absurdity in the best Lord Miller style until the battle between the vacuum cleaners, smartphones and Furbys (!) running amok against the For the last remaining people on earth, pretty much anything seems possible. For example, that two damaged (and therefore particularly stupid) robots can be trained by the Mitchells to fight on the human side from now on. For these two scene-stealers, who also always fail to recognize the cross-eyed pug of the Mitchell family as a pug (and not as toast!), one would like to see a spin-off or at least a sequel. The fact that those responsible here and there rely on plot points that can be counted on in family cinema is certainly also due to the genre – you simply know that the Mitchells are never in serious danger, that the world probably won’t end for good and that it’s not just the robocalypse avert, but also allow the adventure to smooth over the tensions within the family. Out of sympathy for the Mitchell family, we long for this happy ending anyway. And the way there is ultimately peppered with so many creative ideas and gags that the focus is more on the question of how Rianda and Rowe came up with all of this and less on why they couldn’t think of anything better.
“Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe tighten the screw of absurdity in the best Lord Miller style until pretty much anything seems possible in the fight between vacuum cleaners, smartphones and Furbys (!) running amok against the last remaining people on earth.”
The makers are also going wild on a visual level. While the three-dimensional CGI look is most comparable to “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 1 and 2,” the creatives also repeatedly incorporate two-dimensional details and live-action film clips and photos into the design. Within the Mitchell family, this often serves to highlight the different character traits and preferences of the characters. In the second half of the film, on the other hand, such visual freedom is needed, especially in order to highlight the unlimited possibilities of the Internet. Because as much as “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” ultimately pokes fun at the gradual dependence on the Internet, the collection of data and the transfer of (too much) responsibility to every possible technology gadget in an equally amusing and direct way, it succeeds It allows him to emphasize the positive sides of the technological world, free from glorification – and of course the value of family.
Conclusion: With their film debut “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” directors and screenwriters Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe begin their Hollywood careers in the direct footsteps of the two comedians Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who act as producers here. Their action-packed family adventure combines crazy, creative ideas, enormous ingenuity and lots of heart.
“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” will be available to stream on Netflix from April 30th.