The Mitchells vs The Machines Review

The first thought that pops into my mind after watching “The Mitchells vs the Machines” engulfs the entire entertainment industry. Let’s go back for a moment, to 2017; Katy Perry’s  single “Swish Swish” was released together with a 6 minute videoclip. It was apparent that the objective behind the production of this video, was to include as many memes and/or elements related to trending topics from pop cultural media as possible. And so, the video stars Katy Perry alongside cast members from “Glow”, “Stranger Things”, “Game of Thrones” as well as Terry Crews, Molly Shannon and also famous athletes, internet celebrities like “Doug the Pug”, Backpack-kid and even added memes like the shooting star meme. This was a strong demonstration that the entertainment industry in general wasn’t able to understand or replicate the meme culture that had emerged by that time. As time went by, there were other attempts (none as grotesque or bold as “Swish Swish”) to incorporate this cultural phenomenon of neo-human communication into media with no signs of success. It is now May of 2021, that with the release of “The Mitchells vs the Machines” we have finally found a group of creatives that were able to understand and communicate through the modern language of memes without sacrificing the quality of the animation or the narrative structure of a well told story.  

The film follows Katie, a teenager that loves producing videos and that doesn’t always feel comfortable with her family and current acquaintances. Katie decides to enroll in film university which accepts her with open arms. As she prepares to leave, her father decides that the best way to say goodbye is to embark on a family road trip to drop her off one last time. 

As an animated family film, this works like a by-the-numbers family road film, with a warming message that even if it may seem a bit heavy-handed at times it still works. The use of a thematic villain can be hit-or-miss and ends up being more useful as a platform for humor other than a conduct for the viewer to reflect upon certain elements of their lives. The story beats may follow a very familiar structure but the characters and plot points that move the story from one scene to the next, are actually very enjoyable. Katie as well as her father have decent arcs that lead to a nice emotional ending, showing how they evolved in a realistic way even if they were stranded in unrealistic situations. The side characters like the little brother and robots are necessary and give interesting interactions to the rest of the family. The only character that seems a bit superficial and receives the short straw in regards to narrative development is Katie’s mother. She never becomes annoying or useless; yet her role seems limited to a back-up player in the problematic relationship between her husband and her daughter. By the ending credits, the story serves as a perfect vessel that hosts other elements that elevate the experience significantly. 

Firstly, the animation brings out a unique touch that gives the whole a look and feel that distinguishes it from any other animated movies. Sony partners up again with producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who have arguably made the best animated movies Sony has ever produced like “Spiderman:Into the Spiderverse”, “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs” and “The Lego Movie”.As a consequence, the characters and world they inhabit seem to be rendered in a 3D style that resembles the video games produced by Telltale Games although more elaborate, detailed and colorful. On top of that, the characters movements, sounds and even feelings are enhanced through the incorporation of a 2D visual aid that changes up the entire flow of what is being shown on screen. It is similar to what “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” incorporated (comic book panels and some onomatopoeia) but instead of being always disruptive and shocking it only starts that way, before slowly but steadily becoming part of the language; resembling sketches and little notes that someone would draw at the side of a page during a class. When all is said and done, most people probably won’t remember this new cinematic tool, but funny jokes and gags that were enhanced by it. That is the most pure demonstration of a tool that works seamlessly.  

Secondly, we have to go back to our introduction and give a standing ovation to the way the filmmakers were able to incorporate the voice of modern content producers into the narrative. Katie impersonates a way of modern communication without stereotyping it or closing doors on new elements that might emerge or gain popularity throughout the coming years. The sweet spot is found when we look at both sides of her persona; the creations she uploads and her communication skills outside the virtual sphere. Usually, memes are out of content extractions from popular media, so when screenwriters and filmmakers try to force a meme by making it obvious it usually just turns out as cringe; producing a counterproductive effect. But the blend found in “The Mitchells vs the Machines” manages to break that barrier. Taking elements from the meme culture like a “Furby” and generating an intertextual dialog between its history in the internet and its role in the narrative of the movie is one of the outstanding examples that we can find littered across the entire experience. 

At the end of the day, a simple but effective family story became the perfect means to transport us to a journey like none before. The humor that Lord & Miller have produced in different mediums rediscovers itself again with the incorporation of modern internet culture. This film is a funny experience that doesn’t sacrifice the image of modern content creators to make fun at them; it gives a new voice through Katie. If that doesn’t deserve a like, I don’t know what does.

The Mitchells vs The Machines Review
"The Mitchells vs the Machines" is a heart warming story about a family coming together while extraordinary chaos ravages the world. Even though the script might be predictable and the overall family relationship story can feel over done; it compensates with great animation, laugh out loud humor and modern cultural significance. A recommendation for any and all memebers of the families out there.
The Mitchells vs the Machines
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