MOVIE: "The Mitchells vs. The Machines"
WHERE Streaming on Netflix
WHAT IT'S ABOUT It's the end of the world, specifically in the form of a robot apocalypse, and humanity's last hope is the dysfunctional Mitchell family in the wonderful new animated movie "The Mitchells vs. the Machines."
When the movie, now streaming on Netflix, begins, they're on a road trip to bring daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) to film school in California from their home in Michigan.
Mom Linda (Maya Rudolph) and brother Aaron (Mike Rianda, also the movie's director) concern themselves primarily with how to repair the relationship between Katie and dad Rick (Danny McBride), who don't see eye-to-eye on technology or anything else.
The focus shifts quickly, though, with the unveiling of a new line of robots designed by the tech company PAL, a ubiquitous entity that closely resembles Apple.
The neglected AI system tossed aside by founder Mark Bowman (Eric Andre), also named PAL and voiced by Olivia Colman, seizes control of the robots in an act of revenge and sets them out to imprison all of humankind in tiny floating pods.
MY SAY Every frame of "The Mitchells vs. the Machines" bursts with creative inspiration. The animation incorporates a simulation of hand-drawn comic book-style flare to personalize Katie's experience as well as clever digital world references, such as a running gag involving filters.
Rianda, co-writer Jeff Rowe and the expansive team of animators emphasize the emotions in what is ultimately the story of a father and daughter who need to relearn how to communicate with each other, while placing the action within a relatable modern-day realm, even as our heroes battle these flying robotic killers.
There's a lot going on from the start of the picture to its conclusion, including one of the funniest moments in any movie in recent memory: an extended battle scene inside the ruins of a mall wherein electrical devices ranging from toasters to soda machines and, yes, a Furby army mobilize to battle the Mitchells.
Every frame is packed with rich visual detail and the clear sense of technological innovation on display. Katie's emotional universe is defined by background details such as 2-D style rainbows and hearts, or her caricature screaming in anger.
The collage aesthetic extends to asides in consequential scenes that offer quick parodies of everything from viral videos to classical artistic imagery, as when the aforementioned Furbies are seen as heavenly angels wielding trumpets.
It's relentlessly entertaining and insightful: a disaster movie on a global scale, a satire that thoughtfully considers our technology obsession as both an outlet for creativity and connection as well as an insulator from the world beyond the glowing screen.
That would be enough, of course.
But "The Mitchells vs. the Machines" is also a richly textured father-daughter story, rife with recognizable moments in its depiction of the evolution of Katie and Rick's relationship and the ways in which each talks past the other.
BOTTOM LINE This is a perfect movie for the whole family, which is an all-too-rare thing to find.