As an adult viewer, I often get asked why my favourite film medium is animation. It’s simple really. Animation allows fiercely creative individuals to potentially create something that is both wonderfully artistic and potentially universal in its appeal. There’s no better feeling in the media viewing world. The Netflix pandemic acquisition (from Columbia and Sony Pictures Animation) The Mitchells vs the Machines is a great example of this. It’s the film to beat for 2021 (animated or otherwise.)
Directed by Michael Rianda and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller it’s 108 minutes of concentrated wonderful. Very much an evolution visually of what the producers showcased with the original Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. That said Mitchels is better in every respect. An insanely rapid-fire gag hit rate. Solid vocal performances for the entire cast. a special mention to Olivia Coleman who delivers one of the best turns in recent animation as the villains AI. Her ability to come across as authoritarian yet calming is utilized brilliantly. One of the strongest emotional cores possible. Enough beating heart and soul for several generic kids animations.
This is the point at which a certain breed of critic will make a complaint that the plot offers nothing revolutionary. On a simple level, this is correct. The very basic narrative structure of robots taking over the world has been done to death in family media. It’s distinctly more impressive from a creative perspective if you can make very stock structure engaging. This is something but the filmmakers behind this brilliance pull off in spades. If your piece of work has insanely sharp writing and lovable characters the audience can root for everything else that becomes somewhat irrelevant. The entire production a strong example of a creative team firing on all cylinders. It’s also perhaps the best example of how truly universal animation is. It can be enjoyed by anyone whether they are 6 or 60.
The Mitchell’s vs the Machines is what happens when creatives are on board at all levels. A hilarious, beautifully made piece of work showing what’s the medium can accomplish at its very best. On one level Sony selling the movie to Netflix is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great in that the piece is decidedly more accessible to a wider audience. That said the fact it now won’t get the opportunity to be projected on the big screen is a letdown for fans. Especially in an age where Sony is determined that the James Corden Peter Rabbit sequel must be theatrical exclusive. To an extent, this doesn’t matter. The film is available to view now. Every viewer of any age with a mild interest in animation should invest the watch time. They are in for a wonderful ride.