‘The Mitchells Vs The Machines’ Blu-Ray Review
Get this one on your Christmas list immediately! One of the best blu-ray releases of 2021, for what is undoubtedly the best animated movie of the year. A riotous explosion of colour and imagination, ‘The Mitchells vs the Machines’ is an absolute blast of visual mayhem. You’d have to be a robotic machine yourself not to have fun with this film. And if you think it looked good on Netflix, wait until you see it on blu-ray.
Following the vintage road trip formula, the film sees the wildly dysfunctional Mitchell family travelling across the country to drop off eldest child Katie at film school in California. She’s your typical tech-savvy film fanatic, and is constantly at odds with her more old-fashioned, nature-loving Dad. He’s hoping that the road trip might help to heal their relationship before she goes off into the big wide world.
It’s a classic set up for a family bonding caper in the style of National Lampoon’s Vacation. That is until the robot-apocalypse happens. Over in Silicon Valley, tech bro billionaire Mark Bowman has just unveiled the latest upgrade to his Alexa-like AI personal assistant PAL – a new line of home robots. PAL (brilliantly voiced by Olivia Colman) however, doesn’t take kindly to being made obsolete, and decides to take revenge on Mark (and the entire human race) by reprogramming the robots to capture and enslave humanity, and then launch everyone into outer space.
What PAL didn’t count on however – yep you guessed it – is the Mitchells. Stranded somewhere in middle America, they managed to avoid being captured, and now the future of humanity is resting on a film obsessed teenager, her weird parents, her dinosaur-loving little brother, and pug dog named Monchi.
Director and co-writer Mike Rianda has done an incredible job with ‘The Mitchells vs the Machines’. Mixing contrasting techniques and visual styles, the film is an absolute feast for the eyes, with every frame fit to burst with invention and wit. This can make it seem as though the script is quite chaotic, but it is anything but. The writing is sharp and energetic, working in perfect unison with the madcap visuals. There are also enough cine-literate references in here to keep film fans delighted. You will want to watch it over and over again to catch all the details you might have missed.
The performances from the voice cast are also terrific. As well as the aforementioned Oscar winner Olivia Colman as the evil AI, Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, and Mike Rianda all bring tons of heart and humour to the Mitchells. There’s also wonderful support from SNL alumni Fred Armisen and Beck Bennett, as the two malfunctioning robots who help the Mitchells in their quest.
Physical media fans will definitely get a kick out of this blu-ray release. For starters, the main menu is a riff on Criterion’s classy home page, and then once you get into the extras, there is a lot to enjoy. First up is the option to watch ‘Katie’s Extended Cinematic Bonanza Cut’ of the film, which includes storyboards, rough animation, and temporary voices to accompany the additional scenes.
There is a stacked filmmaker’s commentary, with director Mike Rianda, digital effects supervisor Mike Lasker, production designer and character designer Lindsey Olivares, co-writer Jeff Rowe, producer Kirk Albrecht, head of character animation Alan Hawkins, and head of story Guillermo Martinez.
If you enjoyed the clips of Katie’s short films that are interspersed throughout the film, then you will love ‘Dog Cop 7: The Final Chapter’. This hilarious little film serves as both a finale to all the Dog Cop clips with Monchi, and also a continuation of Katie’s story. It’s very funny and very cute.
‘Katie’s Cabinet of Forgotten Wonders’ is a great selection of featurettes looking at different aspects of the film. There’s ‘Katie Vision’ which explores how the animators expressed her creative and energetic thoughts and feelings, which explode all over the screen during the film. The ‘Dumb Robots Trailer’ is a funny little short made to promote the film when it was still in production.
Next up in Katie’s Cabinet is ‘The Original Mitchell’s Story Pitch’ which sees director Mike Rianda introducing the original storyboards for the film. ‘The Furby Scene – How? Why?’ takes us behind the scenes of the film’s most bizarre and haunting scene. ‘PAL’s World’ is a very short clip focusing on the final scenes at the PAL headquarters.
There’s a further 25-minutes of additional scenes, and also a more traditional featurette about the making of the film, which showcases how the final stages of the film were completed during the COVID lockdown. Finally, there are two fun little ‘how to’ videos, showing you how to recreate the sock puppets and Katie-face cupcakes seen in the film.