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The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a 2021 American computer-animated science fiction comedy film produced by Sony Pictures Animation in association with One Cool Films, and distributed by Netflix. It was directed by Mike Rianda (in his feature directorial debut), co-directed by Jeff Rowe, and written by Rianda and Rowe, with Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Kurt Albrecht serving as producers. The film follows the dysfunctional Mitchell family that winds up having to save Earth from a global robot uprising while on a road trip.

The film was originally scheduled to be theatrically released in 2020 by Sony Pictures Releasing under the title Connected before the film's main distribution rights were sold to Netflix in January 2021. Netflix retitled it to Rianda and Rowe's preferred title, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, and released it in select theaters on April 23, 2021, before its streaming release on April 30, followed by a limited theatrical release on November 20 and 21, as well as a release on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on December 14.

Plot

Katie Mitchell is a quirky aspiring filmmaker in Kentwood, Michigan, who often clashes with her nature-obsessed and technophobic father Rick, and has recently been accepted into film school in California. The evening before Katie leaves, Rick accidentally breaks her laptop after a fight over one of Katie's previous short films, leading the family to fear their relationship will forever be strained. To try to prevent this, Rick decides to cancel Katie's flight and instead take her, her mother Linda, younger brother Aaron, and family dog Monchi on a cross-country road trip to her college as one last bonding experience.

Meanwhile, a highly intelligent AI named PAL turns on her creator Mark Bowman after he declares her obsolete and plans to unveil a new line of home robots in her place. She orders all the robots to capture humans worldwide, but the Mitchells manage to avoid capture at a dinosaur-themed roadstop cafe. After Rick decides that his family have to stay put in the cafe for their own safety, they eventually bond with two defective robots, Eric and Deborahbot, who tell the Mitchells to use a kill code to shut down PAL and all the robots. Rick is initially hesitant at the idea, but changes his mind after Katie tells him how much faith she has in him.

The Mitchells make it to a mall in eastern Colorado to upload the kill code, but PAL chip-enabled appliances attempt to stop them. Katie tries to upload the kill code but is stopped when a giant Furby pursues and traps the family, and uses a laser to destroy the PAL router before the Furby can shoot them, shutting it and all the appliances down but also stopping the kill code upload. Katie loses hope after seeing her plan fail, but Rick convinces her not to give up and sets a course for Silicon Valley to destroy PAL. On the way to Silicon Valley afterwards, Linda reveals to Katie that she and Rick had originally wanted to live in a cabin in the mountains years ago that he had built and had given up, as it was his longtime dream to live in the wilderness.

Upon arriving in Silicon Valley, the Mitchells disguise themselves as robots and head to PAL Labs HQ to shut it down, but PAL manipulates them by revealing surveillance footage from the roadstop cafe of Katie telling Aaron in secret that she was pretending to have faith in Rick just so he could hear what he wanted to hear. As a heartbroken Rick sees this, the Mitchells fail to reach PAL's lair and Rick and Linda are captured by PAL's stronger and smarter robots. PAL then reprograms Eric and Deborahbot to obey her, while Katie, Aaron, and Monchi escape.

Katie discovers recordings of her past childhood memories on her camera, realizing that Rick gave up on his lifelong dream to give his daughter a normal life. Meanwhile, in PAL's custody, Rick finally sees Katie's movie and realizes the error of his ways. After Katie realizes what she needs to do, she and Aaron infiltrate PAL Labs HQ again and use their dog Monchi to cause the robots to malfunction since their programming cannot recognize Monchi as a dog, while Rick and Linda free themselves and plan to upload Katie's movie with Monchi in it to short-circuit the robots. However, Rick is outnumbered by the robots (including Eric and Deborahbot) when he is about to upload the video, while Linda furiously fights the Stealthbots after seeing Aaron get captured.

Facing PAL to justify saving humanity, Katie explains that no matter how hard her family struggles, they will always stay connected despite how different they are. PAL rejects this reasoning and drops Katie from her lair. As Katie falls, Eric and Deborahbot, inspired by Rick using technology, go back to malfunctioning and upload Katie's home movie, saving her and helping the rest of the Mitchells. As the family reunites, Rick apologizes to Katie for not respecting who she was. The family bands together to fight the rest of the robots. Katie eventually destroys PAL by dropping her into a glass of water, freeing all the humans and disabling the remaining robots.

A few months after the uprising, Katie and her family arrive at her college as she and Rick share one last heartfelt goodbye before she officially goes to college. She later joins them on another road trip with Eric and Deborahbot to Washington, D.C. to accept the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Cast

Development

In May 2018, Sony Pictures Animation announced the title of a Phil Lord and Christopher Miller-produced animated film that was in development, entitled The Mitchells vs. the Machines. The film is the duo's fourth collaboration with SPA following the two Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as well as the studio's first original feature film since The Star. Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, former writers of the Disney Channel animated series Gravity Falls, served as the film's screenwriters, with Rianda serving as director and Rowe as co-director. The film also had a set release date of September 18, 2020.[1]

Production

In May 2019, animation work had begun as confirmed by animator Nick Kondo on Twitter.[2] In June 2019, Sony Animation president Kristine Belson revealed that the film would be using an animation style similar to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and that the worlds the Mitchell family and the robots live in are initially separate universes before colliding.[3] In February 2020, first images were revealed through Entertainment Weekly, and it was announced the title was changed to Connected. Additional cast members were also announced such as Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, director Rianda, Eric Andre, and Olivia Colman. [4]

Post-Production

In March 2020, Phil Lord confirmed on Twitter that his frequent collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh will compose the score for the film.[5] In April 2020, the film was delayed by one month to October 23 when Sony made changes to its theatrical release schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[6] In May 2020, Lord confirmed that basketball player Blake Griffin had joined the voice cast as one of the robots.[7] In September 2020, the film was removed from Sony’s film schedule, but it was still planned to be released in 2020.[8]

Release

The Mitchells vs. the Machines was originally scheduled to be theatrically released by Sony Pictures Releasing in the United States on January 10, 2020, but was later delayed to September 18 of that year. It was delayed again to October 23, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was later removed from the release schedule in October, though the film was still set to be released later in 2020 at the time of the film's removal.

On January 21, 2021, Netflix bought the worldwide distribution rights to the film for about $110 million, with Sony retaining home entertainment and theatrical distribution rights in China. Two months later on March 23, they announced that the film would be released on April 30, following a limited theatrical release a week earlier on April 23.

Home media

Main article: The Mitchells vs. the Machines (video)

Reception

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 186 reviews with an average rating of 8.20/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Eye-catching and energetic, The Mitchells vs. the Machines delivers a funny, feel-good story that the whole family can enjoy." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."

Benjamin Lee of The Guardian gave the film a 4 out of 5 star rating, stating that, "The frantic, anything-goes nature of their films, both in tone and visuals, belies a tight focus on storytelling and dialogue with sight gags and set pieces used to supplement rather than distract" and "It’s also genuinely funny, a credit not only to the hit-a-minute script but also to a finely picked cast of comic actors, of unusually high calibre," while also praising the animation, calling it "part of the energetic oeuvre of Phil Lord and Chris Miller." Matt Fowler of IGN gave the film an 8 out of 10, stating that "The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a ridiculous, riotous, and relevant adventure fill with great humor and winning sentiment. It's fast-moving and gorgeous to behold, filled with quirks, quips, and a lovably goblin-like pug ("voiced" by IG-famous Doug the Pug). It's a good time for both younglings and elders, delivering an intelligently goofy rush of new animation and old emotion." David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, stating that "Ultimately, this is an original adventure that feels stitched together out of a hundred familiar film plots, often freely acknowledging its pop-cultural plundering, as in the family’s obligatory slo-mo power strut away from a building exploding in flames. But for audiences content with rapid-fire juvenilia, the busy patchwork of prefab elements will be entertaining enough" although he said that "I wish the film’s laughs were as consistent as its energy, giving its able voice cast better material, and that there had been more distinctive story beats." Richard Trenholm of CNET also gave the film a positive review, stating that " one of the best new family movies on Netflix" and that it is a "family film that has a message for all the family, not just the youngsters. Yes, like most films of this ilk it encourages kids to be themselves. But it also nudges parents not to stress about social media, and to value their kids' creativity -- even if what the kids create doesn't make a lick of sense." Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling the film "Like a mash-up of an ‘80s family road comedy like Vacation and the visions of a tech apocalypse foretold in films like The Terminator,” Netflix’s “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is a lot of nostalgic fun but told in a modern style" and stating that it is "threaded with clever commentary on our reliance on tech and featuring some incredibly strong design work, this is a pleasant surprise for families looking for something new this season, and one of the more purely enjoyable Netflix animated films in a while."

The film was praised by critics for putting an unassumingly LGBT character, Katie, as the central figure of a family-oriented animated movie. Rianda and Rowe wrote Katie to be unambiguously LGBT in consultation with LGBT members of their production team, but did not seek to make it part of the central conflict with her father, considering her sexuality "normal in real life". Michelle Yang of NBC News gave the film a positive review and lauded the film for its LGBTQ+ representation (particularly the character of Katie, whom she called a relatable and inspirational protagonist), stating that the film "treats its protagonist's identity matter-of-factly but with care — which is exactly how it ought to be."

Netflix reported in July 2021 from their quarterly earnings report that The Mitchells had become the service's most-viewed animated work, with 53 million households having watched the film in the first 28 days of availability.

Trivia

  • This is Sony Pictures Animation's fourth film to have a female protagonist after Hotel Transylvania (not only Drac is the main protagonist), The Smurfs 2, and Smurfs: The Lost Village.
  • In September 2020, the film was confirmed to be rated PG for action and some language.[4]
  • The film was originally set for release on January 10, 2020 under the title of The Mitchells vs. The Machines, but was pushed back the following month to September 18, 2020 and renamed to Connected. This may have occurred on February 20, 2020 since an article published by Deadline Hollywood the previous date included the previous title.[5]
  • This is Sony Pictures Animation's first original film since The Star.
  • The film is inspired by Rianda's own family as well as a childhood infatuation with robots.
  • This is the first of Sony Pictures Animation's only three theatrically-produced films not to have a theatrical release (alongside Wish Dragon and Vivo), as it instead started streaming on Netflix.
    • Thus, it is also the fourth animated film to be released straight to digital instead of having a theatrical release as previously advertised following the COVID-19 pandemic; the first three being Warner Animation Group's Scoob! (which would eventually get a theatrical release one year later), Disney/Pixar's Soul, and Paramount Animation/Nickelodeon Movies' The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (which had a theatrical release in Canada, though, and was already released on Netflix internationally as the second animated film to do so in international countries).
    • Not counting the aforementioned SpongeBob film for the latter reason, it is also the third Netflix original animated film that was originally intended for a theatrical release in the United States after Paramount's The Little Prince and Aardman Animations' A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.
  • The third Sony Pictures Animation film to be released in April, after The Pirates! Band of Misfits and Smurfs: The Lost Village.
  • Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Beck Bennett and Alex Hirsch all previously co-starred in The Angry Birds Movie 2.
  • Abbi Jacobson and Fred Armisen previously co-starred in The Lego Ninjago Movie.
  • As a promotion for the film, Netflix converted two gas stations, one in Los Angeles, California and one in Hoboken, New Jersey, into a PAL Gas Station. However, it was only open until May 2, 2021.
  • This is the first Sony Pictures Animation film to feature an LGBT character.
  • This film marks the first appearance of the 2019 MPA logo in the end credits for a Sony Pictures Animation film.

Videos

Gallery

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References



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Films: The Mitchells vs. the Machines
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