The guys behind “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and the “LEGO Movies” have another delightfully crazy hit on their hands in the form of “The Mitchells vs. the Machines.” I like to imagine that this is what happens when some dude’s wife won’t let him show “The Terminator” or “West World” to their 5-year-old child, so he decides to make his own version, but as an animated family film so the whole family can watch.
That “dude” in this scenario is the filmmaking team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and they are proving to be two of the most creative producers working today.
The film begins with Katie (Abbi Jacobson) getting ready to head off to film school. Hoping to get some father/daughter bonding in before she leaves, her dad (Danny McBride) plans a family road trip. The problem is that it happens just as the robot apocalypse is beginning, with an evil artificial intelligence (Olivia Colman) bent on destroying all of humanity.
“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is very funny, filled with enough brightly-colored characters and pratfalls to keep the little kiddos entertained, but with a solid layer of wit aimed at the grown-ups. Not all of the humor works, but the jokes fly so fast that sooner or later one of them is destined to score a direct hit on your funny bone.
The core message of the film is also quite sweet. At its heart, this is a story of family bonding and learning to accept each other, no matter how weird our loved ones may be.
More kudos for the voice acting, with Jacobson easily carrying much of the load as our sympathetic protagonist. McBride is a hoot, oozing fatherly concern, without any of the profanity that has become his trademark. Maya Rudolph is also great as an Instagram-obsessed, peacemaker of a mom. If that’s not enough, the film also features a supporting cast of Conan O’Brien, Eric André, Fred Armisen and several “Saturday Night Live” cast members. This is a very talented and funny group of voice actors — no wonder I laughed so much.
If the film has a problem, it’s that there are moments when the plot doesn’t make much sense and some of the scenes drag on a bit too long, but these are very minor concerns. The film is far too fast and funny to allow you to dwell on anything other than what’s coming up next.
I suppose it would have been nice to see “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” in a crowded movie theater, but I suspect that it will easily lure families to gather around Netflix for a delightfully silly family adventure.