Between family apologue and preventive dystopia on the dangers of artificial intelligence, this cartoon finds a jubilant balance, with a daring aesthetic. A show for the general public, an exhaustive guide to discover genre cinema.
Katie Mitchell, a young teenage “youtuber-videographer”, is about to leave the intimate cocoon at a time when her studies are directing her far from Michigan. The break with his father seems to be consumed, as the generational gap has widened. The observation is striking: more than the reflection of a collective imagination where the artisan nostalgia for the father and the dependence on new technologies for the daughter are opposed, the introduction reveals a bitter pessimism about family balance. Tinged with absurd and transgressive humor, it is above all the failure of a father that the first half hour endeavors to illustrate.
Make no mistake: the story will heal the wounds of this dying duo, for which dialogue has become almost impossible. The start of the journey to Katie University is a collection of Dantesque twists and turns where the Mitchell’s pay the price for the father, Rick, being inadequate with his time. End-to-endism in the absurd is confusing since distress becomes a paradoxical source of comedy. We can only feel a form of compassion for this singular quartet, which wisely departs from the beaten paths regularly taken by this type of apologue. The narration takes the time to expose the issues and it is not until the first third of the film that the trigger intervenes which tilts the film towards a strange and tasty dystopia. Throughout these two hours, MITCHELLS AGAINST MACHINES deploys a real emphatic depth for these characters, which is reminiscent of the ramblings pixaresque of Brad bird. This is also where the cartoon stands out in the dull contemporary landscape in terms of animation. Without causing boredom or falling into a latent didactic, each of these long sequences brings its share of humor and incredible actions, where the family asserts itself as a welded core in the light of danger.
This is also the other good idea of the film: the main antagonist takes the features of an artificial intelligence. The smartphone is thus becoming a global threat, a pretext to generate numerous and captivating narrative flows. This opposition to technology contributes to the affirmation of the character of Katie in the initiatory quest that she is going through. In addition to attracting the good graces of her father, the teenager realizes the dangers and a whole generation should be influenced by this awareness. Morality thus distilled finds a fair and operative compromise between the need to adapt to the times and the ramblings potentially provoked by too extreme dependence. It would also be hypocritical to sulk your pleasure in front of the multiple action scenes where the unbridled imagination of neophytes Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe unfolds in a watered-down whirlpool.
Katie thus remains the main subject of the film and looks like a real breath of fresh air if one considers contemporary entertainment on the scale of her heroines. Far from yet another archetype of geek sauce Jimmy Neutron, or more recently Ready Player One, the young girl reflects on the internet and networks from another angle. His videos advocate life-saving creativity, far from the smooth contours of Instagram and Tiktok behemoths. Finally, the heroine simultaneously embodies a form of alienation necessary in response to the robotic dictatorship and the very approach of the directors of this surprising cartoon.
It is advisable to contextualize the film in order to think about it, and at a time when the contemporary cartoon gets bogged down in the repetition of commonplaces, the staging ideas illustrated by MITCHELLS AGAINST MACHINES highlight a form of female mobility that is far too rare. In addition to the blessing granted to the quartet’s agreement, the return to the final agreement is only due to the inventiveness of Katie and the choreography that she ends up orchestrating with her father. Also, the withdrawn mother ends up asserting herself more. Reduced to emphasizing the unnecessary fascination with the archetypal neighbors of the perfect bourgeoisie, his character settles down and becomes fully involved in the storytelling. Thus, the emotion arises and we regret arriving at the end of this curious journey, an inter-generational apologue which will remain as one of the best surprises of these few months on VOD.
• Original title : The Mitchell’s against the machines • Production : Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe • Scenario: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe • Main actors : Abbi Jacobson, Danny Mcbride, Maya Rudolph • Release date : April 30, 2021 • Duration: 1h54min