The Mitchells Vs. The Machines opens with Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) getting ready to leave home to attend film school in Los Angeles. The night before she flies out, Katie wishes to show her family — dad Rick (Danny McBride), mom Linda (Maya Rudolph), and dinosaur obsessed, younger brother Aaron (Michael Rianda) — her latest short, which serves as a goodbye/I’ll miss you message to them. However, her dad, who never seems to understand her artistic pursuits, is dismissive of the production, and in trying to get him to watch the whole thing, Katie’s laptop breaks.
Linda, who is tired of playing peacekeeper, convinces her husband to make it up to their daughter. Well, Rick takes this idea too far, cancels Katie’s plane ticket, and gets the whole family to go on a road trip to drop her off at the university. However, the trip goes pear-shaped from the jump as the Mitchells do not get on well as a family unit. Oh, and because Silicon Valley titan Mark (Eric André) releases his latest invention — a line of artificially intelligent robots who immediately turn evil and wish to subjugate humankind. Through sheer dumb luck, the Mitchells are able to avoid capture and prove to be the only hope in stopping the robot uprising.
The Mitchells Vs. The Machines is the worst film of the year to date, and it will be quite the impressive feat, in all the wrong ways, for any title to dethrone this abomination from its place atop the crap heap. What makes it so bad? Well, almost everything, but seeing as it is an animated production, let’s start with that. The majority of the film is 3D animated, with traditional 2D elements sneaking in to represent the characters’ inner thoughts or feelings. For those who enjoy comedic anime, this is nothing new, and it works perfectly fine here, even if it is occasionally a bit too much at once. The first few minutes is such an onslaught of information and stimuli that it feels like the viewer took acid before sitting down to watch the film. 2D animation is also used in various parts of Katie’s films, the tour de force being her Dog Cop series. While the integration of the two styles is fine, there is so much visual stylization happening all the time that the world is never given the proper time to breathe and suck the audience in.
“…a line of artificially intelligent robots…immediately turn evil and wish to subjugate humankind.”
What is unforgivable and absolutely idiotic about the animation in The Mitchells Vs. The Machines is the use of real-life elements. Picture frames use actual stock photos, a video of a screaming monkey, and other sundries throughout are real. It is very confusing as there is no rhyme or reason to how they are being used, so instead of being amusing or funny, their appearances just snap one out of the scene at hand.
Mind you, it is not like the story or the characters are so engrossing that anyone watching will care about them or the outcome. Minus Katie and Aaron, the other characters are all equally grating and obnoxious. Rick is the biggest sinner here, as he is less than one-note. He’s pretty handy, to the point that he gives screwdrivers as presents, and he does not understand his daughter’s artistic pursuits. That is all there is to him. Why Rick does not get Katie or is unsupportive of her endeavors is never explored.
In the Albert Brooks directed comedy Mother, he plays a successful novelist who moves back in with his mother after getting divorced again. Their relationship is tense, with the two constantly trading stinging barbs back and forth. Why? Because the mom is resentful of her son’s success as she had ambitions to be a writer before he was born. This gives their every interaction and conversation meaning beyond hurtful banter. But such a relationship is never established between Rick and Katie. He is such a blank slate that his job is never actually defined, though it is hinted he does woodworking. But vague implications do not a person form, so Rick’s entire arc does not make sense because a non-entity with no discernible traits cannot change. After all, he can be anything at any time.
"…the worst film of the year."