The Mitchells vs. the Machines: A Great Family Film

By Todd Singer

As those who regularly open Netflix probably noticed, there is a new family-friendly animated movie called The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Those who know me well may be able to tell you that animated movies and shows, even those ostensibly made for kids, are one of my guilty pleasures. Naturally, I watched this new movie almost immediately while resting this weekend after my second vaccine dose. I enjoyed it immensely and want to share some thoughts about this fun adventure with some stunning animation and enough appeal for even adults to enjoy. I will mention the general premise of the movie (which is revealed in the first scene anyway and, uh, the name of the movie) but will shy away from any major spoilers. What does all this have to do with family mediation, you might be asking yourself? Not much, but it is some wholesome fare that you and the whole family might enjoy.

The overall story is an enjoyable, feel-good, and inspirational ode to weirdness and family. The satirical take on our technology-driven world is topical and an enjoyable punchline. Even with the literal machine antagonists, the movie endeavors to effectively show both the negative and positive sides of technology. Beyond that, the movie has a surprising amount of quality things to say about parents, siblings, coming of age, AI, and even dinosaurs (mostly kidding about that last one…but yes, they should have feathers). The father-daughter dynamic will especially ring true for many viewers, those with teenagers at home. The end result is a familiar story with enough unique wrinkles to make it feel fresh.

The part of the movie that stuck out to me the most, and makes this more than your typical animated family adventure, is the quality of the animation. I love animation of all kinds, and a movie like this is something special. Like most animation nowadays, the movie is computer-generated but goes to great lengths to simulate a hand-drawn look. The animators focused on mimicking the look of their concept art through shading, overlays, and brand-new techniques. From the detail of the father’s facial hair to the special effects, it all comes together to create a beautifully unique work of art not equaled since 2018’s Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is no coincidence as many of the same people worked on both. Lastly, the animators deployed 2D assets to add an extra layer of animation and storytelling. If you are curious to learn more, two of the producers have a short featurette available on YouTube discussing this topic in even greater detail.

I will close with one brief thought about the treatment of the main character’s sexual orientation. It is supremely refreshing to see a gay character portrayed not to move the story along or cause conflict between characters. Instead, it simply is.

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