The minds behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, are at it again. This time their collective comedic talents have produced a Netflix original through co-writer/director Mike Rianda’s film The Mitchells vs. The Machines. As the social reaction embargo had previously lifted to some raves, we’ve not got a bigger picture for what to expect, as reviews from critics are now pouring in.
We’ll start, as always, with the home court review from CinemaBlend. Our own Eric Eisenberg saw the film, and gave it three out of five stars. Visually, he seemed to enjoy the film quite a bit. However, when it came to The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ story, he had some reservations; leading to this overall impression:
Through and through it’s a beautiful movie, and while the reach of its story exceeds its grasp in some respects, what it accomplishes is more noteworthy than its issues.
Other critics have their own issues with Netflix’s The Mitchells vs. The Machines, as also seen in the review from Variety’s Peter Debruge. In his write-up, Debruge does note that Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s sense of humor shines through their producer’s touch. Not to mention, the whole message of the purpose of technology is a bit muddy for his tastes; but as you’ll see below, it was still a positive experience:
The Lord and Miller touch, which made The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse so appealing, elevates this wild animated road trip.
A very similar tone problem was noted by Kristy Puchko from Pajiba, as The Mitchells vs. The Machines messaging. She highlighted the particular problem of the inclusion of live-action/2D animation seeming to break the immersion of the films’ reality. But the charm of the the film, and its comedic influences, did seem to win out. Ms. Puchko summed up her feelings as follows:
While a wonky ride, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is undeniably fun and pleasantly unpredictable.
IndieWire’s critic David Ehrlich weighed in on The Mitchells vs. The Machines with a pretty enthusiastic judgement. In fact, there’s a pretty big compliment when it comes to comparing the film to its more blockbuster counterparts.
Directed by Mike Rianda, Lord and Miller's latest animated home run plays like a superhero comedy about the most ordinary family in America.
Finally, in a particularly interesting review from The Guardian, Benjamin Lee not only really enjoyed The Mitchells vs. The Machines, but his enjoyment brought up an interesting point. In a world where theatrical releases are not as plentiful as they usually are, the debut of this animated offering could have been a draw back to theaters. Streaming and studios may go to war a little more after this final, glowing recommendation:
Sony might be kicking themselves in the immediate future but the millions who will get to see the film on Netflix and the enthusiasm that will surely follow is a sign that its animation arm is doing something special. In the ongoing studios v streamers war, we can call this one a tie.
Originally, The Mitchells vs. The Machines was going to be released a very different way. Slated for a theatrical release in 2020, the film was originally titled Connected, at its first home, Sony Pictures Animation. But with last year’s unprecedented circumstances delaying the film, it eventually was scooped up by Netflix for distribution. Which allowed the film to go back to its original title, The Mitchells vs. The Machines.
With critical reactions in, it sounds like the move to Netflix was a fortunate play, as the charming comedy of Netflix’s The Mitchells vs. The Machines will be enough to keep families at home smiling together. Though they may be a little more wary of their smart devices after. We’ll see what happens when The Mitchells vs. The Machines premieres in select theaters, as well as on Netflix’s streaming service, on April 30th.