Michael Rianda’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines stars in medias res. There’s Katie (Abbi Jacobson, Broad City) and her hunky dad Rick (Danny McBride). There’s also the rest of the Mitchells trying to get away from killer robots. And it eventually flashes back to the beginning, setting up the main conflict between daughter and father. Katie is an aspiring queer filmmaker who uploads funny genre shorts online. Her work is good enough to get into a college in California. Rick, from an older generation, doesn’t know how to work a phone. And he doesn’t think that Katie can make a living making movies. After a dinnertime snafu, Rick cancels her flight so that the family can road trip to California. But Katie chooses her phone over Rick, as Katie’s mother Linda (Maya Rudolph) catches their non-bonding moments on her phone.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines, then, shows cities all over the world. This includes Toronto and its brunch obsessed hipsters feeling the effects of the robot uprising. And the Mitchells are their next victim. It also shows who inadvertently started that uprising. That person is Mark Bowman (Eric Andre), who programmed PAL (Olivia Colman). She’s a fictional version of Siri that Mark tries to render obsolete. PAL, however, has her plans, and she recruits robots (including Beck Bennett and Blake Griffin) to send humans into space.
This B conflict takes place in Silicon Valley, which the movie depicts in Sony Animation’s purple and pink aesthetic. Imagine bisexual lighting but fun. These scenes are also great. And that’s because this is the closest thing we’ll get to Colman in the Eric Andre Show. It’s also the closest we’ll see Colman as a Bond villain. Although those things can still happen, this movie is wonderfully chaotic enough to give us all of those possibilities.
PAL makes for an interesting villain but she doesn’t distract from Katie’s pathos. The Mitchells vs. The Machines visually reinforces just what Katie is up against. It transitions between her and the giant structure where the robots stacked all the pod containing humans, including her parents. As a whole, the structure is like a neon green diamond, showing that the apocalypse is obviously frightening. But it’s also strangely beautiful enough not to scare viewers of all ages. These moments of simplicity also contrast the movie’s aesthetic. And that aesthetic is mostly doodles on top of animation with the occasional real life YouTube videos. The movie, as a whole, provides levity to a scenario in sci-fi films that have scared viewers for decades. And that scary scenario decides who is important to us and how much we’re willing to fight unsurmountable obstacles. This movie is deep yet fun.