The Mitchells vs. the Machines

The Mitchells vs. the Machines
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To families with ongoing relationship tension or estranged teenagers, this movie promises a wonderful experience. It begins as a feel-good story but in fact provides food for thought regarding our human frailties and imperfections. The realism of this family dynamic in the midst of a deep crisis makes the movie relatable in a chaotic, post-pandemic world.

High schooler Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is a creative and fun-loving teenager who is leaving home to start college at a film school. She has already made a series of films about the family’s beloved dog, and the shows have gained popularity on YouTube. But Katie’s father has not been supportive of her creative ideas. The Mitchells feel inadequate and admire other seemingly perfectly functioning families.

In an attempt to fix the problem, dad Rick (Danny McBride), tries to bond with his daughter by turning Katie’s departure from home into a family road trip to deliver her to college. Their plan gets disrupted by a “robot apocalypse” as the world’s electronic devices all come to life and stage an uprising against human beings. The Mitchells accidentally become the only human beings who have the chance to save the world.

Katie and her younger brother Aaron show promise as they tackle saving the world. But the super villain, a controlling AI device who seems “all-knowing” through Predictive Algorithmic Learning (PAL, voiced by Oscar-winner Olivia Coleman), soon detects the imperfections of the Mitchells and their internal strife. PAL attempts to use the Mitchells’ fractured relationships to sabotage their mission.

It may be too late, as many scars and arguments have been revealed during the family road trip and some deep wounds have begun to heal. The Mitchells eventually acknowledge and embrace their imperfections but still commit to love each other. Katie’s mother Linda Mitchell (Maya Rudolph) becomes a superwoman who takes out robots on her own to save her family. Aaron uses his wit to help mend the relationship between his sister Katie and their dad Rick.

Packed with jokes that resonate with the technological environment teenagers are immersed in, this movie also offers deeper insights about human relationships. It’s surely a longer animated movie (110 minutes) than most, but the fast pace and action-packed story plot deliver boundless excitement. The family conflicts, disconnections, and disappointments are very relatable. In the end, even our imperfections seem to work out for the better, almost by a kind of divine providence. The movie also implies the future of a rich and hopeful universe for human beings, despite the interruption of a world-wide crisis of existence. (Sony Pictures Animation)

About the Author

Mary Li Ma, Ph.D., is a a member of Plymouth Heights CRC church in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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