When The Mitchells Vs. The Machines dropped on Netflix last April, the internet went crazy. Most of us had been cooped up for months due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions and we were hungry for entertainment, we were hungry for colours, laughs and emotions. Well, director Mike Rianda and co-writer and -director Jeff Rowe gave us all of that and more with their heartfelt and wonderfully inventive film, which is now getting treated to a physical home entertainment release, packed with extras!
The film focuses on Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobsen) who has just been accepted into film school, a place where she hopes to finally find her people and somewhere she truly belongs. Her relationship with his well-meaning, but old-fashioned and technophobic dad Rick (voiced by Danny McBride) is strained; Rick doesn’t appreciate or understand art, especially Katie’s art. After an explosive and rather destructive fight, Rick decides to take the whole family on a road trip to take Katie to college but the trip is disrupted by a robot apocalypse.
The Mitchells Vs. The Machines became an overnight hit. Viewers were able to see themselves in Katie, a fiercely independent, artistic soul trapped in a more conventional family that doesn’t understand her. Most of the events are seen through her eyes, quite literally; Katie-vision is epic and fun, adding to the grand sense of adventure.
Underneath its flashy, vibrant surface, this is a fairly traditional film with a fool-proof, old-as-time message at its core. It’s not bad, but while so many elements of The Mitchells Vs. The Machines feel so progressive, one would have hoped its central themes and messaging would have been slightly more unique.
It’s bright, almost violently manic visuals are also overwhelming at times. The animation is on point; everything looks great, real enough to be relatable but fantastical enough to easily allow for the suspension of disbelief. There is style and visually, the whole film fels focused and polished, but the frame is also constantly so busy with details and manic with action, it undercuts some of the more emotional stuff. Rianda and Rowe at times forget to stop and allow the story and characters to breathe organically; some individual moments are simply lost in the action.
The blu-ray release also comes with an extended cut of the film, with over 40 minutes of roughly animated sequences. It’s a fascinating look into the filmmaking process and works especially well as an exercise to understand why certain things never make it onto our screens. There’s also an insightful director’s commentary, deleted scenes and Katie’s masterpiece: Dog Cop 7: The Final Chapter. All in all, it’s one of the most packed physical releases of the year.
When The Mitchells Vs. The Machines works, it works so damn well, which is a good 90% of the film. Yes, there are flaws but it’s near impossible not to succumb to its sweetness and hilarious gags. Some of the jokes are repeated a few too many times, but most of them land wonderfully. From a strong voice cast and dynamic visuals, The Mitchells Vs. The Machines is one of 2021’s best, if not the best animated film.
The Mitchells Vs. The Machines is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from December 14.