PG for intense kid-flavored violence. I suppose we could throw some meanness somewhere in there, which might invite pause for little ones watching this movie. For some reason, my brain shut off when I saw that it was PG and I confused that for "G". Because no movie is G anymore. But really, it's comic violence. It's a story about the apocalypse where the death toll is remarkably low. The robots are kind enough to capture the humans so they can deport them to space. The implication, however, is that humanity would just die in space. Regardless, PG.
DIRECTORS: Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe
Yeah, I'm a grown man who decided to watch a kids' movie without his kids. What? I heard it was really good and the kids just didn't have the patience to watch this. They, admittedly, were on a Teen Beach Movie kick and I wasn't going to 1) get involved with that and 2) stop them from soaking that in. But I also really wanted to watch this one because of whatever tie it had to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Right now, Lord and Miller can do no wrong. It's bananas to think that they had Solo: A Star Wars Story taken away from them because they seem to be Hollywood's blockbuster it-guys.
But again, I return to that old well of being emotionally vulnerable when it comes to family stories, in particular where it is about connecting / reconnecting with Dad. I'm not Katie Mitchell at all. Katie Mitchell is as Gen Z as it gets. (Okay, she's as Gen Z as Gen X directors and producers can conceive of her.) It's so bizarre that these movies are tying me to the old farts. You know, I bond more with the out-of-touch dad than I really should. I mean, I can't build a cabin out in the woods. I don't carry around screwdrivers. I'm wearing a Falcon tee-shirt. But I actively fear the idea that my daughter will grow up and just absolutely despise me. Watching something like Mitchells just preys on that sensitive subject. My little girl will grow up and stop liking comic books. There's going to be that moment where I ask her to put her future phone down and interact with me and something I do will be horribly tone deaf. This is going to happen. I mean, all of this blogging has been so passé for so long that it is having a vintage renaissance.
But I do love that films address this idea. There always seems to be this misunderstanding that people don't love each other because they don't speak the same love language. (I'm very hip.) And it is everyone but ourselves who see this problem. And where other movies fail to communicate this, movies like The Mitchells vs the Machines get that the theme is central. Listen, I love Up. I do. If my kids decided on Up as a family movie night movie, I would be there with bells on. But Up is very telling of the state of most children's films. There is a message that the movie really REALLY wants to tell. With Up, it is moving on from grief. With Frozen, it's about finding a sense of self. But the middle of the movie, the story is padded with a bunch of action sequences that are often entertaining, but distract from the central theme. But Mitchells offers a theme that is actually built and supported by the action sequences. When the robot uprising happens, it is a metaphor for the central idea: communication. Dad sees Katie as someone who is more consumed by pop culture and technology. From his perspective, she withdraws from reality when she makes quirky videos. Katie is the opposite. To her, technology is a means of deeper communication that her father fears and avoids. While not intentional, she sees her father's refusal to adapt to a new medium a means of rejecting who Katie has become. When the film anthropomorphizes this fear into sentient walking robot death machines, both of these characters has to come to grips with their own failures to understand the deeper meaning of technology as a form of communication.
But I do love that it doesn't make one of them the bad guy and the other the good guy. I mean, I suppose Dad is the one who has to make greater steps towards change as opposed to Katie. Katie has a lightbulb moment about the sacrifices that her father made for her. Dad actively has to change for the sake of the family and for survival. (I really wanted to send my mom a clip of Dad failing to do basic things on the computer, but I quickly realized the irony of that wish and put it in my back pocket.) But Mitchells takes it beyond that old Will Smith chestnut of "Parents Just Don't Understand" and applauds Dad for making the effort. It makes it weird to think that a movie really stresses the sacrifices that parents make for their children. Mitchells embraces the concept that parents lose that sense of individuality that children thrive upon. Yeah, I'm sure that there are plenty of stories out there that will encourage the mature parents to rediscover their dreams. But let's be honest: Dad kind of wants what Katie is desperately fighting for. He probably doesn't even realize that he's the one who is most standing in the way of Katie's sense of purpose.
It's a great movie. I don't know if it is perfect though. Into the Spider-Verse was everything I ever wanted out of both a Spider-Man movie and an animated film. It had this look and feel that just nailed everything. The Mitchells vs the Machines feels like an amalgamation of both Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Into the Spider-Verse. For as cool as the story was and how fun the film was as a whole, I don't know if there was anything visually or stylistically groundbreaking. Instead, it had that twee element about it that, at times, felt like it might have been trying a bit too hard. I'm being rough on this point, mainly because the rest of the movie is so good. But there are moments where it felt like it was hiding vulnerability behind these graphics. Regardless, it mostly works.
Nah, I dug it. My son, now that Teen Beach is done, wants to watch it right now. It probably had to do with the fact that I'm writing about it and we stopped having screen time for the day. But he got jazzed about it. And to be honest, I don't mind watching it again so soon.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.