The Daily Stream: The Mitchells Vs. The Machines

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "The Mitchells vs. the Machines"

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Remember the refreshing exhilaration of seeing the incredible animation styles and heartfelt story at play in "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse?" Would you like to feel that again? "The Mitchells vs. the Machines" did reuse some technology from the spider story, but it's not applied recklessly. A barrage of incredible 2D, live-action, and CG effects come together in an explosion of storytelling — of a time-worn family road trip story.

Young filmmaker Katie Mitchell, eager to get away from Michigan and her technophobe father Rick, is ready to attend film school in California and to find her quirky like-minded people. After mounting tensions between the two, dad cancels Katie's flight to college so that the family can bring her by car instead. So Rick, Katie, her mother Linda, little brother Aaron, and bouncing, bulgy family pug Monchi embark across the country for one last trip as a family. 

All is fine until the robot uprising.

Now, humanity's last hope is a Midwestern family in a (fictional) burnt orange '93 station wagon. God help us all.

It's Even Got Nyan Cat

This movie is a through-and-through, fully realized celebration of creativity on every level. Behind the scenes are the crew behind "The Lego Movie," "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs," and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (the latter of which was a favorite of /Film writer Hoai-Tran Bui) Sony Pictures Animation comes in with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to produce another animated banger like their "Lego" and "Cloudy." Then you have director Mike Rianda, creative director of Disney's animated series "Gravity Falls." Rianda co-writes the film with "Gravity Falls" scribe Jeff Rowe, and together they tell kids and parents alike to value creativity — it may save the world one day. A further creative flex on the project came with the addition of acclaimed composer Mark Mothersbaugh ("Rugrats"). The stage is set to tell a wonderful story for everyone.

It's a simple bit of praise but for me, when all is said and done, the movie looks good and is indeed as creative as its pedigree suggests. The level of detail and warmth coming from every frame is what makes the ride so enjoyable in between laser fights and Furby battles. It's the heart-to-heart between Katie and her brother hidden under a metaphor about dinosaurs, but it's also the soup cooking in the background, its steam rising in curls behind the siblings and capturing the warmth within their conversation. It's the dizzying explosion of creativity in Katie's room and appearance, but it's also the way that, if you pause at the right moment, you can see the titles of the amateur films that Katie has made, like "Dial B for Burger." It's in the switch from the organic human messiness and stray lines of the Mitchell clan to the geometric PAL robots and the sleek, sterile world they threaten to impose. 

In between are universal constants: that families aren't perfect, that perfection is more of an image thing when it should be a harmony thing, and that it's possible to write an LGBTQ+ character into a kids' movie like it's no big deal. The film itself values Katie and her creativity, peppering the narrative with her own Gonzo "Katie-vision" that speaks in memes and camera filters to emphasize a moment or emotion. Short of any fancy criticspeak, the movie is just so frantically pretty.

By the way, while you're reeling over the stunning visuals of the film, /Film's Ethan Anderton suggests picking up a copy of "The Art of The Mitchells vs. the Machines" for more insights into its creation.