The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

Director: Mike Rianda

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Certification: PG

Starring: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Mike Rianda, Eric Andre, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Charlene Yi, Blake Griffin, Conan O'Brien, Doug The Pug

When it comes to filmmakers, has there been a stronger rise in the past decade than Phil Lord and Chris Miller? The Clone High creators have given life to some whip-smart films audiences have connected with, taking them to Jump Street, through LEGO sets, and into the Spider-Verse. Taking on producer roles, they've joined forces with Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, known for the excellent TV series Gravity Falls. As these creatives assemble together, they've delivered an astounding feature which is full of vibrant fun, genuine laughs, and heartfelt emotion.

Accepted into the film school of her dreams, Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is eager to leave home and find "her people". However, those plans are delayed when her nature loving dad (Danny McBride) insists on having the whole family drive her to school. His attempts to bond one last time are interrupted when robots rise up, intent on capturing every last human, leaving the Mitchells as the last family on Earth.

Upon meeting Katie, her feelings of alienation are laid bare, as she doesn't feel like she fits in. She finds solace in movies, which have always been there for her, and inspire her to make content of her own. She's excited to move to college, find her place, and finally meet people who share in her interests. Though while she's anticipating her move, it's leaving her father feeling blue. Rick is a big-hearted patriarch who loves nature, and hasn't adapted to technology. He's well meaning, yet goes about it in the wrong way, resulting in constant rows with Katie. Central to the story is their touching relationship, having drifted apart since Katie was a child, and reconnecting as the team they once were.

There's a lovable family dynamic with the Mitchells, each one a joy in their own way. Be it Lin (Maya Rudolph), the big-hearted mother who just wants her family to get along, Aaron (Mike Rianda), the dinosaur obsessed son who has a strong bond with Katie, or Ponchi (Doug The Pug), the adorable presence who stars in Katie's Dog Cop films. Aiding the family are Eric and DeborahBot (Beck Bennett & Fred Armisen), a pair of defective robots whose every scene is an utter joy. More than just a plot device to aid the family, they're real characters worth caring about.

The tech uprising is spearheaded by Pal (Olivia Colman), a smart tech appliance who's everywhere. Having been disregarded by their creator, Pal deals with feelings of resentment, as their hurt is channeled into fury against the human race. They see no genuine reason to save humanity, utilising an army which extends to all kinds of technologies, including Rooma's and washing machines. Included in their ranks are Furbies, whose unsettling presence marks a high-point for the film.

A stunning animation style breathes life into this story, as modern CG captures these characters and the apocalyptic scenario happening around them. Interspersed into the story are scrapbook style visualisations, which are a wonderful way to get into Katie's headspace, as she applies her inventive mind to the world around her. It's all set to an excellent score by Mark Mothersbaugh, which is mixed with a fantastic soundtrack. As somebody who's admittedly never cared for T.I. and Rhianna's song, "Live Your Life", this film got me to adore it's inclusion.

As the family grapple with the technological antagonists, the action beats are delivered with such kinetic energy, though it's not just a way to get the blood pumping. These moments are an excellent opportunity to deliver wonderful callbacks, weave in fantastic bouts of humour, and develop the characters in ways which will touch your heart. By the end, what's left is a heartwarming tale about the importance of finding ones own place, while not leaving behind those who love you.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines premieres globally on Netflix from April 30th