It’s children’s movie week on Reviews For No Reason, apparently. But hey, I like kid’s media. I’m reading a children’s mystery book series right now. I enjoy the simplicity – not to say that the media is simple in a bad way, it’s just simplistic. It’s not trying to impress anyone by being fancy, it’s just trying to be entertaining and real, and I find a lot of comfort in that. Comfort was what I hoped for when I turned on The Mitchells Vs The Machines this blustry afternoon, but it was not what I found.
The Mitchells Vs The Machines (TMVTM?) is a movie that carries so many lessons I was surprised that it didn’t drop the load. Fearing a permanent divide in the father-daughter relationship, Mr. Mitchell cancels his daughter Katie’s plane ticket to college insisting that family road trip will do them all some good. While they’re traversing across the country, a Mark Zuckerberg stand in announces that now phones are robots, robots are just cell phones with arms and legs that can do more for you. Cell phones, or rather Pal, the software that runs cell phones, doesn’t take kindly to being made obsolete so she hacks the robots and makes and army. She claims that humans have no right to exist because we’re all just dopey faced technology addicts, so she and the robots are rounding up all of the humans and plan to shoot them into space. The Mitchells, though dysfunctional, manage to evade the robots long enough to hatch a plan to save humanity.
So basically, this movie is trying to teach us the lesson that we all failed to learn from the Disney Channel original movie Smart House.
This movie is made for kids who love screens. The way that animations and memes are cut into the images implies that we all see the world through the lens of the internet now, which for some people I suppose is accurate. For someone like me, who battles daily with technology, this didn’t appeal to my senses. I hated getting pulled out of the story, distracted by rainbows and lightbulbs and cartoon breaking hearts. I didn’t enjoy the way the movie was drawn with the sets made to look one step up from Elmo’s playhouse and certain props fading in and out of animated realism. These idiosyncrasies, meant to be entertaining, only served to take me out of the story. It felt like the animated version of breaking the fourth wall, which is a delicate process and definitely overdone with this film.
As I watched the action unfold I was fading in and out of interest, because this story has been overdone in so many different ways. The plot was trying to juggle so many lessons – cautions against technology abuse, admittance that technology was helpful, teenage angst, and common familial woes. By trying to juggle that, it dropped some balls that bothered me. (For Instance – they have the car full of her college stuff. She gets to college, she has only two bags. Did the rest fall out of the car during the adventures? No – when they drive away it’s still in the back. They’re driving back across the country with all of her belongings)
The show personifies Pal, the OS, in cellular form by pulling stunts like using vibrate to throw itself around the table in rage. Pal tells Mark that she doesn’t appreciate being poked and swipes at his face like she’s zooming in on his eyeball. None of this really landed.
Except the Furbies. In the nineties I desperately wanted a furby and once I got one I was terrified of it. In the middle of the night it would start blinking and cooing and asking me to play. Furbies were the first wave, sent to watch over us in the night, so that fifteen years later we’d all be comfortable putting a microphone planted by Jeff Bezos in all of our common living spaces. I would watch an entire movie about a furby domination attempt, and probably enjoy it a bit more than I did this one.
One of the many storylines that I did enjoy was the one where the angsty teenager comes to terms with her relationships. I can relate to feeling left out during the formative years and labeled as “weird”. It’s easy, after experiencing that, to put on a thick armor of anger towards everyone else for not being accepting. Eventually I took pride in my armor, pride in my difference, and I never stopped to wonder if someone was trying to get close to me. Throughout the movie Katie learns the difference between not being accepted and not being understood, which is something I wish I had learned much earlier in life.
Overall, this movie is not my jam, though if you have kids that are way too into screens, this movie is entertaining and will give them something to chew on. It’s a movie about the dangers of technology that is obviously made for people who love screens and memes. In that way, it’s a bit Tolstoyesque, and that deserves a bit of respect.