REVIEW: The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
Many worthy films for all audiences flew under the pop culture radar in 2021, released with some fanfare but overshadowed by current events. Take the animated Connected, for example. Announced by Sony for 2020, it briefly arrived in theaters in April before hitting Netflix under the name The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
Now available in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack, the film is well worth your time and attention. First of all, it’s funny and good for the entire family to enjoy together. Second, it has some fine messages underneath the frenetic pace and stuffed visuals.
Rick (Danny McBride) loves nature and is a bit of a technophobe, setting up a conflict with his daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson), who is about to attend film school. When their visions clash one more time, he cancels her flight and decides to pack the family into their old station wagon and drive across the country. His wife Linda (Maya Rudolph) and young son Aaron (Mike Rianda) don’t necessarily want to interrupt their lives but off they go.
As they ride the highway, the evil tech genius Mark Bowman (Eric André), having had his PAL (cute) AI declared obsolete, enacts his revenge by having the next generation of PAL programmed to capture all of mankind and launch them into space. Our heroic family narrowly avoids this and it’s up to them to save the world from technology gone wild.
On the macro level, we have the obvious save the world plot, but underneath it, Rick is trying to save not only his family but his relationship with his eldest. The film is stuffed with other characters with an impressive vocal cast with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen playing married neighbors, whose daughter Abbey (Charlyne Yi) is the object of Aaron’s adolescent desire; and a series of PALs, led by Olivia Colman, clearly having fun.
The animation is impressive as it blends the hand-drawn with CGI overlays, letting director/co-writer Mike Rianda pack plenty of action, comedy, and commentary.
The 1080p high-definition transfer is excellent, capturing all the colorful nonsense and keeping things crisp. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is fine but struggles to keep up in places.
The combo pack has delightfully creative liner notes worth a read. The disc contains not only the theatrical release but Katie’s Extended Cinematic Bonanza Cut! (1:52:48) adding about two minutes of extended/alternate scenes without the CGI enhancements. It also comes with an intro from Rianda.
Special Features include Dog Cop 7: The Final Chapter (8:24), Katie’s student film; Bonus Scenes! (25:18), a collection of deleted and extended scenes; Katie’s Cabinet of Forgotten Wonders (11:24): Katie-Vision!; Dumb Robots Trailer; The Original Mitchells Story Pitch; The Furby Scene – How? Why?; and Pal’s World; The Mitchells vs. The Machines: Or How a Group of Passionate Weirdos Made a Big Animated Movie (12:49); How To… : Audiences learn how to Make Sock Puppets (1:48) and Make Katie Face Cupcakes (1:56); and 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 —with so many creators chatting, it’s a fun review of their ambitions and reflections.