Friday 30 April 2021

The Mitchells vs. the Machines (Movie Review)

Disney and Pixar might be the reigning champions when it comes to animated films, but one other studio that has recently been producing a steady stream of great movies is Sony Pictures Animation. The travesty that was The Emoji Movie aside, the studio has produced notable films like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and those in the Hotel Transylvania series, just to name a few. And just after scoring their first Academy Award win for Best Animated Film for the former in 2019, it would look like they are already on track for a repeat with The Mitchells vs. the Machines.

The movie centers upon The Mitchells, a quirky family of four (five if you include their dog, Monchi). Their daughter, Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), is an aspiring filmmaker who doesn't quite fit in with the regular crowd. So when she gets accepted into film school, she sees it as an opportunity to finally get to meet others like herself. On the eve of her departure, she has an argument with her dad, Rick (Danny McBride), and she learns that he doesn't appear to have much faith in her abilities as a filmmaker.

Feeling guilty about his words and actions, Rick decides that the entire family should embark on a cross-country road trip to Katie's school together, in a bid for them to reconnect one last time before she is gone. But when a tech mogul unknowingly gives rise to the robot apocalypse in the middle of their trip, the whole thing is brought to a screeching halt. Now the Mitchells must learn to come together as a family in order to survive and save the rest of humanity.

The first trailer for The Mitchells vs. the Machines had debuted last year, back when it was still known as Connected. And the first thing that struck me upon seeing it was its beautiful animation. The art style was immediately reminiscent of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, so I wasn't all that surprised to find out it was from the very same animation studio. The visuals are just as striking here as they were in that other movie, and it really adds to the film's overall charm.

But aside from its striking good looks, The Mitchells vs. the Machines also offers a very heartwarming story about family, with a strong message about reconnecting with one another. Its social commentary might come across as a bit heavy-handed at times, but it never once ceased to be poignant or powerful. That it does all that and still manages to garner enough laughs to cater to just about every type of viewer is also worthy of praise.

The characters might be animated, but they were brought to life by some truly exemplary voice work from the likes of Maya Rudolph, Olivia Coleman and even Doug the Pug, the internet sensation who makes his acting debut. But the true standouts were of course Abbi Jacobson and Danny McBride. Both of them really sold the father-daughter relationship that served as the movie's emotional core.

Sony Pictures Animation scores another win with The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Their latest film can be considered an evolution of their entire body of work, incorporating the best bits while streamlining the rest. The result is what I consider my current frontrunner for favorite animated film this year. And I know we just got through the Oscars, but a Best Animated Film nomination at next year's ceremony seems all but guaranteed as well.

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