The Mitchells vs. the Machines (4 stars)

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Energetic animation featuring the voices of Abbi Jacobson and Maya Rudolph

'Who would have thought a tech company wouldn't have our best interests at heart?' muses Maya Rudolph's mom, Linda Mitchell, in the latest from Sony Pictures Animation. Fetchingly fusing sci-fi drama, satirical jibes and domestic disputes, it finds a chaotic brood travelling across America in a station-wagon, bickering against an apocalyptic backdrop of a robot uprising, and winning each other's respect as they improbably evade capture.

Written and directed by first-time feature helmer Michael Rianda (the creative director of animated TV series Gravity Falls), The Mitchells vs. the Machines (known in some territories as Connected) is co-directed by Jeff Rowe, who also collaborates on the script. It's inspired by Rianda's own clan and his infatuation with robots and, alongside Rudolph, features the voices of Danny McBride as the family's obstinate, survivalist dad Rick, Broad City's Abbi Jacobson as teenage daughter Katie – about to head off to college to pursuit her dream of becoming a filmmaker – while Rianda himself provides the vocals for dino-mad son Aaron. Olivia Colman plays a scheming smartphone (yes, you read that right), with Eric André the tech magnate behind the robots which go wrong.

Apparently inspired by and providing a counterpoint to Pixar's The Incredibles, this lot could be dubbed 'The Terribles'; with generational tensions powering the fast-paced narrative, the family have a steep learning curve to negotiate, resulting in a familiar but sincere story enlivened by a fresh, plugged-in feel (a casual mention of a girlfriend for Katie is a nice addition). The appealingly goofy animation style combines slick studio CGI with more homemade, anarchic touches and live-action inserts, giving it texture and plenty of visual variety.

Best of all, The Mitchells vs. the Machines boasts a broad sweep of appeal, with slapstick and a boss-eyed pug for the little ones, enough sass and parental humiliation to satisfy teens, and tonnes of fun references for the grown-ups (Kill Bill, Tron, Gremlins, Ghostbusters). It might have a fractious clan at its core but it should make for harmonious, whole family viewing.

Available to watch on Netflix from Fri 30 Apr.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 1h 53min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe
  • Written by: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe
  • Cast: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Eric Andre, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Conan O'Brien, Charlyne Yi, Sasheer Zamata, Mike Rianda, Olivia Colman
  • UK release: 30 April 2021

The robots have set out to take control. It's the end of the world. Humanities last hope lies with the dysfunctional Mitchell family.