Robocalypse Now: The Mitchells vs. the Machines

The Stream: While never boring, it starts slow and is about 15 minutes too long.

The Big Screen: Great animation and clever action sequences.

The Final Bill: Delivers on family fun with a lot of heart, energy and entertainment.

– Trip Fontaine
Director: Michael Rianda (as Mike Rianda), Jeff Rowe (co-director)
Writers: Michael Rianda (as Mike Rianda), Jeff Rowe
Stars: Abbi JacobsonDanny McBrideMaya Rudolph | See full cast & crew »
Genre: AnimationAdventureComedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 1 hour 49 minutes
Platform: Netflix (April 30, 2021)

What we all need is some good, old-fashioned escapist fare! Right?!? What could be better than a nice, family-friend animated movie? How about an animated action-comedy about the robot apocalypse – Robocalypse? Enter Netflix with The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Is this just watch the therapist ordered? Here goes…

The Mitchells vs. the Machines is an animated action-comedy about a typical middle-American family that embarks on a road trip to take the oldest child, Katie Mitchell, to film school in California. As it so happens, the robot apocalypse arrives in the middle of their trip. Here, Katie Mitchell is an aspiring filmmaker, always behind her camera and struggling to find her community through her artistic expression. Rick Mitchell, the father, doesn’t understand Katie or anything about technology, really. The brewing tension between father and daughter bubbles over as Katie desperately wants to escape home and find her place at film school. In a bid to recapture their old bond, Rick packs up the family and plans to drive Katie to school across country as last minute family outing. As most cross-country family adventures go, the Mitchells are suffering through disappointing roadside attractions and general claustrophobia until the machines come and force the family to work together to save the world. It all happens in the way only an animated movie can do.

There’s a lot to recommend in this movie. First, the visual style is amazing. There is a lot of kinetic energy to the animation. You won’t know where to look and the detail is inspiring. It is clever how there seems to be a mixed-media quality to the animation. It could get overwhelming at times, but it is never boring. Moreover, all of the various visual styles complement the story. Second, the writing hit the marks you would want from an action-adventure-comedy animated movie. There are sight gags that reference technology and social media. Fred Armisen and Beck Bennett play dim-witted robots, who team up with the Mitchells, and they add to the humor. Olivia Colman give a great voice-performance as the A.I. villain, who set the robot apocalypse in motion. She has the wit and mischievousness that these animated villains need. While there are some apocalypse tropes that pop up throughout, there is a lot more that feels fresh that what could be cliched does not completely derail the good time.

My biggest gripe about The Mitchells vs. the Machines is that it takes a long time to get to the “vs. the Machines” part of the movie. There is a lot of set up. Obviously, the goal of the set up is so that the audience invests in the success of the family, particularly the rekindling of the father-daughter relationship; but, I felt that it took too long. Further, once the movie does get to the “vs. the Machines” part, while it is satisfying and entertaining, it also becomes too much of a good thing. At an hour and 49 minutes, the movie is too long and could have hit all of the action-comedy marks, including the emotional climax, if some extraneous things had been cut.

S2S: Official Rating Scale

Netflix certainly delivered with this one. The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a great family film that has nice themes about both individuality and family togetherness. There is humor and heart throughout. The action is entertaining and the animation is visually intriguing. Gather the family with a big box of popcorn and enjoy the Robocalypse.