Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
One of the highlights of 2021 was Mike Rianda’s enormously inventive and creative animated feature The Mitchells vs. The Machines. Originally planned as a theatrical release by Sony Pictures in September 2020, the film eventually premiered on Netflix earlier this year due to the pandemic. Sony retained the home video rights, though, and have now released the movie on Blu-Ray. Watching it again, The Mitchells vs. The Machines solidifies itself as a film brimming with humour and heart. Rianda cleverly mixes the road trip family comedy with a robot apocalypse and manages to make each member of the Mitchell family stand out. Katie Mitchell is a delightful protagonist, although the film does show her flaws as well. Her father Rick is someone going through his own troubles and the smart screenplay by Rianda and Jeff Rowe does a good job of showing how this trip changes their relationship.
There are multiple laughs throughout the film and most of the jokes do land. One hilarious running gag involves the Mitchells’ pug short-circuiting the robots. A sequence in a shopping mall where the Mitchells battle appliances and other electronic devices is a brilliant action scene with jokes constantly whizzing by at every second. Adding to the film’s enjoyment is the visual look. Lindsey Olivares’s character designs are incredibly unique and allow the movie to look unlike any other animated film out there. The animators follow suit, giving the movie a look that feels like a mix of computer and hand-drawn animation. A lot of computer animated films have been experimenting and trying new things, with Mitchells being one of the most commendable achievements in that regard. The film is joyous and it’s definitely likely to inspire future filmmakers like Katie Mitchell to not hold back on their creativity.
The Blu-Ray for The Mitchells vs. The Machines packs in a decent amount of bonus features. “Katie’s Extended Cinematic Bonanza Cut” gives us an alternative version of the movie, with storyboarded sequences replacing the finished animated scenes. For those curious how much an animated film changes during development, this provides an interesting bonus edition. A short film with puppets titled “Dog City 7: The Final Chapter” provides a very funny and sweet peek into Katie’s life after the events of the movie. Katie’s homemade films were some of the best parts of The Mitchells vs. The Machines and it’s great seeing an entire short done in her style. Some bonus and deleted scenes appear, including material already included in the alternate cut. A highlight is a subplot involving the largely ignored Vice President of the United States meeting the Mitchells. All of these are very funny and shows how much the filmmakers were firing on all cylinders when crafting the story and jokes.
Under “Katie’s Cabinet of Forgotten Wonders”, there is a collection of short featurettes. These provide explorations on the character designs, animation and other tidbits. The original pitch reel is especially neat and even includes a humorous appearance from a former real-life President stuck riding with the Mitchells. A 12-minute featurette on the making of the film provides a solid overview, from the story’s inspiration to recording the voices. And there are two cute “how to” guides to create the sock puppets and cupcakes seen in the movie. Finally, the disc includes an audio commentary from the filmmaking team. Most will probably be content revisiting The Mitchells vs. The Machines on Netflix, but big fans of the movie will definitely be happy picking up this physical copy. It’s certainly a film bound to reward multiple viewings.