MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Pay no attention to the generic title. Disregard the fact that it is a Netflix movie and isn’t on any nearby theater screens.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines is simply a movie that you need to see right away. It’s great. It’s funny. It’s topical. It’s family friendly.
And – yes – it’s not very original. Although I couldn’t convince my 5-year-old grandson to agree with me, it’s really a reboot of The Incredibles with a middle-class family standing in for the superheroes. It’s also a milder version of National Lampoon’s Vacation – an 80s road trip movie. It’s also kind of like Mad Max: Fury Road, I Robot and Minority Report. Mostly, it’s like The Incredibles.
And I loved it.
When the film begins, Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), a senior in high school, is getting ready to go to college where she hopes to major in creative arts. She has been using her computer and video camera to post funny videos on You Tube. Her father Rick (Danny McBride) doesn’t understand her wacky creations and their relationship is growing rough around the edges. Katie is very close to her little brother Aaron (Michael Rianda) and protective of him; he adores his big sister. Mother Linda (Maya Rudolph) tries to hold the family together with love. And they have Monchi – a quirky dog – as the family pet. Katie has her plane ticket and is ready to fly off to school.
Then dad decides that it might be more fun to load everyone in the family station wagon and go on a cross country road trip to college. This is an idea that only Rick can get excited about, but off they go. Unbeknownst to them, the robot apocalypse has begun. Soon the fate of the entire world will depend on the Mitchell family.
Since there are so many great jokes and plot developments – and you will see a few of them in the trailer – I am hesitant to say much more. But you need to know that the film really understands the benefits and the liabilities of social media and digital dependency. The movie wants to celebrate Katie’s creativity while also critiquing our obsession with screen time. It can make fun of Apple’s self-congratulatory product launch “events” and also find time to comment on consumer culture and envy of those considered to be the “perfect family”. It’s also a rip-roaring action film in which no one dies. There are even characters from the dark side who switch over to assist the Mitchells in their battle. And – naturally – if you are going head-to-head against a tech network run amok, you are going to have to go off the grid and use your wits instead of Google.
This film was created for theatrical release and purchased by Netflix. I wish that I could have seen it first in a packed theater and listened to the laughter and delight of families with children. But for the time being, this movie just made me appreciative of a creative team that could spend millions of dollars and months of programming to provide two hours of thoughtful and silly movie making.
See this movie soon so that you can tell others about it, as well.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: A celebration of family and a humorous reflection about the digital world.
One pitchfork: Mild crude humor to keep the kids – of all ages - entertained.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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