LOL and OMG at the weird family battling iPhone robots.
The words “sassy” and “cartoon” are what I would like to describe “The Mitchells vs. The Machines,” which was originally titled “Connected.” It makes more sense to give the movie with that new name, because the plot basically combines “National Lampoon’s Vacation” with “The Terminator,” as a weird family must battle a robot apocalypse. And the comedy is flexible and deadpan-the kind that adults and today’s generation of kids can relate to.
It’s the latest animated feature from producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who both brought animation to new heights in “The Lego Movie” and “Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse.” In this movie, they continue to offer their nostalgic sense of humor, spiked with filters, gifs, and attacking Furby dolls, and with help from writers/directors Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe (both from “Gravity Falls”), they assemble a professional team of animators to make the characters in a splice of CGI and traditional animation, in the vein of “Spider-Verse.”
We meet the Mitchells-the old school, nature-loving dad Rick (voiced by Danny McBride), the 1st grade teacher mom Linda (Maya Rudolph), the aspiring filmmaker Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), the dinosaur-loving Aaron (voiced by Rianda), and their creepy-looking pug Monchi. Rick and Katie don’t connect well, and her biggest dream is to go to film school in California. Being that this might be their last chance to connect, he cancels her plane ticket and takes his family on a cross-country trip to drop her off. That’s when they become humanity’s last hope.
The mastermind behind the robot apocalypse is a power-mad A.I. (voiced by Olivia Colman), who is so unmoved by motivating speeches about the good of humanity that she either goes on Sleep Mode or orders her robot henchmen to kick her creator Mark Bowman (voiced by Eric Andre) in his crotch. That’s one of the reasons I’d describe the film as sassy. I really admire how Colman’s voice makes the phone a fun villain, and the movie delivers on the character more than “Super Intelligence” did with James Corden’s character. And Andre is sharp and funny as well.
The supporting voice actors include Fred Armisen and Beck Bennett as defected robots and the only ones willing to help the Mitchells, Conan O’Brien as a robot announcer, and John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, and Charlyne Yi as what the movie would describe as a perfect family. It seems obligatory, more or less, but they do have their moments, and they’re versatile.
“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” also provides sweetness in its father-daughter relationship, when we see what Rick and Katie used to engage in before the daughter grew up, and how the power of love can reignite that spark. Sure, it sounds routine, but it’s still considerate. And the voices by McBride and Jacobson are both whimsical and flexible.
And speaking of flexible, the animation is able to transcend from one format to the next, and makes the characters fun and the colors bright. The gifs are traditionally animated, while the CGI animation almost looks like it was rotoscoped. Parts of the movie look computer animated, while others look like they traced over it, not in a Richard Linklater matter, but more in a cartoon way. In fact, “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is a cartoon, and a fun one at that.
Streaming on Netflix This Friday