The Mitchells vs the Machines (Blu-ray)

January 26, 2022 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Maybe it’s just me, but there seem to be a LOT of movies out there these days. I seem to remember the “studio” flicks of about a dozen per major studio along with some indie films thrown in for good measure. Technology and streaming services (which, I suppose, are technology as well) have changed all that. It’s quite possible to make a full-length feature film with the iPhone in your pocket. Aspiring filmmakers have run out of excuses. But, I’ll switch gears to animation as, well, that’s what this review is about. Animation is a different beast and, no, sorry it’s not possible to make an animated film with your iPhone. Ok, maybe it is but I feel the effort involved would be pretty intense. Odds are if you can make an animated film in that manner, you’ll most likely find some other outlet to pay the bills. I’m babbling. I’d never heard of The Mitchells vs the Machines until I requested a copy from Sony. I had, however, heard of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – the duo that brought us Into the Spider-Verse and, of course, 21 and 22 Jump Street. Need I say more?

The Mitchells are going on a road trip. They consist of Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), her younger brother Aaron (voiced by Michael Rianda) and her parents Linda (voiced by Maya Rudolph) and Rick (voiced by Danny McBride).  There are a few things going on in their world. First, artificial intelligence is threatening to destroy all of mankind), but more importantly Rick and Katie are having some issues. Katie feels that her Dad doesn’t “get” her and her obsession with making home movies (i.e. “Dog Cop”). Likewise Katie doesn’t seem to “get” her Dad and his obsession with nature. So when Katie is about to head off to Los Angeles for film school, Rick packs up the family for one last family outing (think Vacation – any of them) where they’ll drop Katie off at school. While all of this is going on PAL (essentially Siri or Alexa) is about to be made obsolete by her maker, Mark (voiced by Eric Andre). PAL goes rogue and uses his robot army to capture humans and launch them into space. It comes down to the Mitchells, of course, to save the world.

This is one of those movies that had the wrinkles on my forehead on full display. Some of it I laughed out loud and at other times I was saying “wha…?”. But you know what – it worked. Yes, friends, never doubt what you’re seeing on screen if the names Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are attached. They will not lead you astray. And, to be fair, this is actually a great family movie as well. Even Pixar films have branched out and you don’t need a Disney movie to gather around the television and be entertained. The humor is offbeat enough to be entertaining to both kids and adults, but it’s also weird enough that it never lost my attention. That said, this might not be for everyone, but I can say that it’s one I’ll watch about once a year. And that’s saying something.

Video: How’s it look?

I sound like a broken record, I’m sure but essentially any animated film from a major studio is going to look pretty damn good. And this one does. The 1.85:1 AVC HD encode leaves little to the imagination. Colors pop (and this is a very colorful film), detail is off the charts and even black levels look good. There’s a lot happening and I can’t even wrap my head around how one would go about animating some of these scenes. But they did. Suffice it to say that the viewer will have a very satisfying experience visually.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The DTS HD Master Audio mix has a few moments that really impressed me, but I felt the track was a bit more reserved than I’d initially expected. That’s OK, though. Vocals shine (it’s impossible to mistake Danny McBride’s voice), surrounds are active in many scenes and while the front stage takes the lion’s share of the sound, I found the entire experience very palatable. You will too.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Dog Cop 7: The Final Chapter – Katie Mitchell’s film. Which is, interesting…
  • Bonus Scenes! – A few are shown in some early stages of animation:
    • The Mitchells Learn to Love Robots!
    • Katie’s Sneaky Dog Cop Analogy
    • Katie Mitchell – The Most Popular Girl in Town
    • The Mitchells Meet the (Vice) President
    • Technology Takeover – With Bonus Cruelty to Child!
    • Everybody Loves Killbot
    • The Robots Attack – Early Version
    • Cold Open – Old PAL Infomercial.
  • Katie’s Cabinet of Forgotten Wonders – Some short segments that give us a bit of insight into the making of the film.
    • Katie-Vision!
    • Dumb Robots Trailer
    • The Original Mitchells Story Pitch
    • The Furby Scene – How? Why?
    • Pal’s World.
  • The Mitchells vs. The Machines: Or How a Group of Passionate Weirdos Made a Big Animated Movie – In this instance, the title says it all. A bit of backstory on the film’s origin and how it came to screen (both big and small).
  • Audio Commentary – Director Mike Rianda, Visual Effects Supervisor Miks Lasker, Production Designer Lindsey Olivares, Co-Writer/Co-Director Jeff Rowe, Producer Kurt Albrecht, Head of Animation Alan Hawkins, and Head of Story Guillermo Martinez (that’s a mouthful) all talk about the film, its various influences and everything in between. I doubt the “target audience” will appreciate it, but it had some genuinely funny moments.
  • How To… – If you’ve ever wanted to know how to make Katie’s Face Cakes or sock puppets – your wait is over.
  • Previews – Other Sony titles are profiled.

The Bottom Line

This is a strange movie. Then again, I’m a strange guy. I feel that upon repeat viewings, this is one I’ll appreciate more. Sony’s Blu-ray looks good, sounds good and has enough supplemental material to warrant a purchase. Did I mention it’s strange?

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