Home Entertainment “The Mitchells vs The Machines”: A Dysfunctional Family giving Functional Lessons

“The Mitchells vs The Machines”: A Dysfunctional Family giving Functional Lessons

The world may have descended into the chaotic pandemic which slowly turned things dysfunctional like the Mitchells, the last standing family in a world overrun by “futuristic robots”. The pandemic delayed and adjusted several things and plans like the release of “The Mitchell vs The Machines” which was originally titled “Connected” but was disconnected with the preference of those who call the shots in Netflix thus, the change in the name (a good move as the former is catchier though they could have explored used more creativity, a characteristic that both titles do not have). Nonetheless, it did not affect the overall quality of the film including the wide array of morals and lessons that both kids and adults would surely relate to. 

With a startling momentum in its asking of the question, “What if the only family that could save the world was as dysfunctional as yours?”, the film created a question in the mind of the viewers. This and its outstanding plot and animation makes the film worthy of different awards and accolades. Threaded with an intelligent and reflective swipe on different timely issues like over-reliance on technology and generation gap, and subtle commentaries on school and future career, family relations, acceptance, and sexuality and self-discovery, coupled with incredibly powerful graphics and animations, this film would be a pleasant surprise for families looking for enjoyable, light but memorable, energetic, feel-good, and lesson-filled film at this time.

The assortment and montage of 80s vibe comedy with the tech apocalypses shown in movies like “The Terminator”, made this work a thrilling nostalgic fun-filled action-comedy film played in a modern style, the type of film that the whole family would enjoy while sitting in a couch and eating popcorns or whatever food is available. 

The story

It follows the story of Katie Mitchell, a creative and quirky teen who aspires to be afilmmaker someday and is about to go to college in California. Realizing that college would be long and may have unintended consequences, the family decided to go on a trip. So, Katie, together with her brother Aaron and parents Rick and Linda commenced a road trip on the way to “The Golden State”. But their family bonding came to a halt as the world’s electronic devices started a “true technological revolution” that intends to annihilate the human race. With help from two malfunctioned robots, the Mitchells must now come together, and learn to live with their differences, to save each other and the whole planet from a technological doom and “apocalypse”.

Comparison and the People Behind this Extraordinary and Fun-filled Family Movie

When Toy story was launched by Pixar in 1995, other competitors’ works looked old and dusty as the movie is a new work that challenged existing ways of creating and telling stories. It made animated films before it mediocre as it outdid them not only in graphics and design but as well as in the way the story was told and the values and lessons embedded in it. 

It pioneered a new creative way of telling stories to make films more connecting, emotional, and fun-filled with a mix of values. The movie is a “legend” on its right and it took years before the world experienced a new “revolutionary” film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The work was a superhero film that was eye-sizzling, breath-taking, and superb as shown by its sophisticated graphics and animation that it gave a feeling of being ahead to the future and something that is from a different dimension. It took the world by storm! 

The coming of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” to the world was largely thanks to a powerhouse team of producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, working with filmmakers Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, and Bob Persichetti. And yet, Lord and Miller did not stop as they collaborated with Michael Randa and Jeff Rowe to create a new animated film that is superbly extraordinary and way light-years ahead of its current competitors in terms of techniques, storytelling, and value embedding, “The Mitchells vs The Machines”. 

The Critique

​Lord and Miller’s influence could be widely seen in the film as it is undoubtedly creatively inspired by their works on their two prior movies, “The Lego Movie” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse.”. The movie like the former is filled with jokes, swipes, side comments, punchlines that hit above their weights, and gags that have a lot of visual flights that one must re-watch again to notice and catch them all (re-watching it is a delight as it is really good). But the influence of the former would not be easily identified as it is overshadowed by the influence of the latter. 

The influence of “The Lego Movie” was not thrashed but rather overpowered. When you start watching the film, the first aspect that would surely hit you is the graphics and animations. The graphical and creative influences from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is crucial in the success of the piece-just as how other animated films used comic and street art features, this work utilized internet culture like YouTube which is easily recognizable to the masses, thus resulting in a modernized and visually vibrant designs. It is a dynamic blend, a smooth collaboration of 2D and 3D textures with occasional cartoonish doodles created by the thoughts and emotions of the characters which made it more appealing for the younger audience. These graphical features are often compounded with the hyper-kinetic and hyper-cinematic actions of the characters and this is where the comedic flavor oozes as it made the film not only lively but as well as funny. 

The voice actors also did a great job voicing the characters. They did not overplay their parts which made the voice projection more natural and realistic. Aside from it, the application of music in the film is also superb as it was timed on the appropriate scenes which added feelingsand colors to the whole movie-making certain parts more memorable and iconic. The application of the 2004 song Dragostea Din Tei (Live your Life) is also engaging and made the scenes more iconic as it tries to merge the generation of Rick and Katie as shown when they sang. This scene leads people to think that maybe Rick heard it on the radio and since it is always sung and played Katie grew up knowing and loving it. 

Aside from the graphics and music, the plot of the story is also superb and brings a new flavor to the bland and mediocre animated films being released. It further excites the interest of those who watch it as it captures emotions and a deeper introspection and relation. Centered with the Mitchells, a dysfunctional nuclear family of 4 (5 if it will include the dog and 7 if the 2 robots were included), the movie showed how a dysfunctional family functions in times of crisis, the real-life problems they experience, and the miles they are willing to take to understand each other to free the world from the clutch of an Alexa-like AI who controlled a massive army of robots who trapped humanity in floating cubes as a preparation for their take-off to space.  ​

Lessons and Values 

​One of the strongest points of this movie is the lessons embedded in it that was magnified by the characters’ actions and emotions. “The Mitchells vs The Machines” is a child-friendly, family-oriented film that is worth watching. It held on to its emotional core throughout the film. Be it in the mid-film riotous scenes, the father-daughter conflict scenes, the unveiling of robots, the introduction, the ending, values, and lessons are embedded and showed through the nuances, actions, and dialogues of the characters. Kids, teens, and adults would learn a lot of things in this movie. 

​Aside from the dysfunctional setup, the generation gap between Katie and his father Rick was one of the more upfront issues in the story. This generation gap threads the lines of conflict relationship between a father and daughter born from very different generations. The portrayal shown was rather convincing as it has an appeal to feeling. It deals with a teen who feels that her parents especially her father do not understand her as they haven’t shown any support or interest in her passion for filmmaking. Later on, it was revealed that her father was somewhat like her years ago but it did not work out the way he liked it to be and his actions were just him trying to make her daughter think of a backup plan. This scenario between Katie and Rick is the typical misunderstanding and the film itself gave the approach to solve it. When they were hiding from the robots Linda told his husband that he needs to understand where Katie is coming from. The same goes for Katie, her brother Aaron told her the same as per the instruction of Linda. That lesson from the character of Linda is a simple lesson that parents and children and people forgetbut this film tried to redeem it.

​Another lesson is from the by-product of the feeling of isolation Katie felt from her parents. She felt that no one understands her but she was wrong because when she applied for college and got admitted she met (on the internet) people who understand her passion, people who share the same thing. This scene is sending a message to those who feel that no one understands them to think differently because somewhere out there, there are people who know what they feel. This further stretched to the message that “it is okay to be weird”. Katie is “weird” in her own right but she did not change herself to be accepted, because there are people who will accept people no matter how weird they are.

​During those times when Katie felt isolated from her parents, the only companion she has was her brother, Aaron. The relationship of the two is the kind that is not typically highlighted but this film showed the important role that siblings and sibling’s love play in the development of a person. 

​There also appears the irony of technology in the film. In one scene, at the family table,Rick told his family to put away their gadgets and that instance appeared to be hard for them. A clear depiction of the irony that while technology made us connected to the people away from us, it made us disconnected from those in the vicinity.  And kids should specifically get this because they might be underappreciating the people who are constantly beside them. There a lot of fun things to do without gadgets and they should be immersed in those as those activities doubles as a family bonding. 

​Personal discovery is also a message being sent by the film. The line of Katie “To be fair, it took me a while to figure myself out.” in the early beginning, is a line that proved Katie undergone a self-discover pace. It is one of the most groundbreaking messages from the film as it paved the way for the LGBTQ+ community. This part is telling kids and parents alike that self-that being part of the LGBTQ+ community is not bad, and that parents should be more observantof their children to avoid misunderstandings. 

​Lastly, the film teaches children to do what makes them happy, to persevere and do their passion whatever it may be, just like art. People tend to make less and downgrade art but the film sent a signal that art is not just for entertainment as it could also be useful like when then camouflaged the car to look like the road. 

Conclusion

​Overall, the film is a must-watch.  It is astonishing how people created a film with a strong message in just 110 minutes, coupled with great graphics and animations, a revolutionary plot, and superb voiceovers. This film would be equally loved by kids and adults alike.

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