A quirky, dysfunctional family's road trip is upended when they find themselves in the middle of the robot apocalypse and suddenly become humanity's unlikeliest last hope.A quirky, dysfunctional family's road trip is upended when they find themselves in the middle of the robot apocalypse and suddenly become humanity's unlikeliest last hope.A quirky, dysfunctional family's road trip is upended when they find themselves in the middle of the robot apocalypse and suddenly become humanity's unlikeliest last hope.
JIM'S REVIEW: (RECOMMENDED) Whenever one discusses the merits of animation nowadays, the same issue with the genre raises its ugly head: It is a rarity when both the narrative and the visuals mesh seamlessly. Usually, the state-of-the-art animation excels the storytelling. Which brings us to The Mitchells vs the Machines, the latest effort from Sony Pictures Animation, a studio that is primarily known for its Oscar-winning film, Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse. In this case, the same results follow that winning formula.
This family-oriented fare is a flashy road movie with a dysfunctional family trying to save the world from a robot apocalypse. Written and directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, the movie is a clever spin on the generation gap with a sci-fi edginess. Despite all the mayhem happening around the family, the Mitchells become the unlikely hope for mankind as they rage against the machines and try to avoid their own destruction. This mission forces the always quarreling father and daughter to begin to bond as they fight off the bots, with an overabundance of underwhelming pop tunes blaring on its soundtrack.
The screenplay tries to focus on the relationships within the family dynamics, but the characters lack depth. The story settles into a series of endless chases and dilemmas. (If you want to see superb animated sci-fi about a family of misfits, may I suggest Pixar's The Incredibles series franchise?) However, the visuals in The Mitchells vs the Machines are consistently eye-catching and well rendered, although some of the animation becomes too manic for my taste. The backdrops are filled with superb detailing and the movie makes good use of its CGI.
There are funny sight gags to enjoy and having all of its characters become stylized exaggerations with big eyes and distorted facial expressions, more in line with the Looney Toons cartoons of yore has its charms. (Especially fun are the comic antics of two defective robots named Deborahbot 5000 and Eric.) But the moviemakers never trusts their own instincts and never allow the moviegoers any downtime to enjoy some quieter moments. The quick edits and garish color palette, along with the jarring camera movement, seem desperate to impress wheneverpossible. Every single moment must be choreographed to be loud, bold, and brash.
Fine voiceover work is done by Mr. Rianda and other better known celebrities such as Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Abbi Jacobson as the Millers and Olivia Colman, plus Fred Armisen, and Beck Bennett as the malfunctioning droids.
The movie's main flaws are its breakneck pacing that becomes overdone and a script that needs to calm itself down. As the movie races to its uplifting climax, it switches gears and goes into sensory overload. The jumbled screenplay relies more on tongue-in-cheek cyber in-jokes and sophomoric humor that mostly falls flat as it tries to salvage the plot. The filmmakers make a misstep in breaking through the fourth wall too often in their storytelling techniques with abrupt stops in the action which jarringly interrupt the many well-done chase sequences.
I suppose that The Mitchells vs the Machines would qualify for standard animation fare these days, perhaps a cut above the usual offerings. This Is ambitious and innovative animation to the max, well worth viewing. One cannot deny the talent of Mr. Rianda and company. Still, despite all the lavish creative artistry, this hyperactive film follows a predictable formula for success. It may visually satisfy some moviegoers with many innovative touches, but the movie does little for the intellect or emotions. Perhaps the robots do end up winning in the animation war after all. (GRADE: B-)
- May 11, 2021