If only they had been let loose on Star Wars the way nature had intended before being cast aside so things could stay “safe”. For those of you that don’t know, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, famed for their irreverent, pulsating brand of comedy and animation that gave the world Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, 21/22 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, amongst others, were the original directors in Solo: A Star Wars Story. In fact, they had shot a sizable chunk of their version before being ousted for “creative differences”. The film as it was was decent fun, but imagine the new, exciting life they could have bestowed upon the franchise. Instead, we got The Rise of Skywalker.
Happily, though, they are back with another new film, putting their producing hats on to bring the world The Mitchells Vs The Machines (or, as it was originally called, Connected, and we are all glad they changed the name) and immediately after watching it, everything feels just a tad better than it was. A cacophony of colour, excitement, energy, comedy, heart, and zaniness, their new team-up with director Mike Rianda and his co-writer Jeff Rowe quite literally explodes off the screen, bringing with it both a wonderful sense of hopefulness and love at a time when we all have needed it most.
Taking its cues from Lord and Miller’s earlier works and fusing it with pops at, well, pop culture and modern societal issues (kids on machines, machines taking over, the loss of the family unit) into a cavalcade of outlandish set-pieces, kaleidoscopic wonder, and brilliantly judged humour. What more can you ask for?
The titular Mitchells are like any dysfunctional, 21st-century family: Dad Rick (Danny McBride) and Mum Linda (Maya Rudolph) have lost touch with their kids thanks to their obsessions with technology. Daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) is an aspiring, experimental filmmaker while son Aaron (Rianda) spends hours consuming information about dinosaurs and nature on the Internet. With Katie accepted to her dream college, Rick decides it’s prudent for some family time and decides to drive her and the rest of the posse across the country to her new destination.
As they set off, a new software company PAL is unveiling its latest upgrades, all to the chagrin of its previous OS (voiced spectacularly by Olivia Colman) which leads a machine uprising against him to take over the world. Cue an avalanche of jokes – gut-bustlingly funny and satirically sharp – that showcase our now overbearing reliance on technology and our fascination with screens over real, physical human interaction, as well as the fear that one day such an event may indeed happen. But while that might seem like a hell of a lot to attempt to tackle and cram into a film of this ilk, Rianda and Rowe do it superbly, balancing the fun with the serious, the outrageous with the almost-realistic and bringing a beautiful tornado-like waft of freshness to the screen, all punctured by some brilliant vocal performances, not least from Jacobson and the aforementioned Colman.
So, essentially, this is the family-friendly version of Terminator. In fact, it’s better than the last three films in the sci-fi/apocalyptic franchise and, while that’s no mean feat, all things considered, it goes to show just how it can be done. And, quite frankly, we are sold.
Animation, Adventure | USA, 2020 | U | Netflix Original | 30th April 2021 | Dir.Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe | Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Mike Rianda, Eric Andre, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen