The Mitchells vs. The Machines

By Peter Debruge

Those who grew up in the ’80s or ’90s probably remember Apple Computer as the underdog, manufacturer of the friendly-looking Macintosh in a world dominated by beige and boxy IBM clones. Flash forward a few decades, and the tech company’s stock has risen, so much so that it’s no stretch to imagine a doomsday scenario where sleek white robots turn on their human users — which is more or less the problem that complicates an already-fraught family road trip in cuckoo apocalyptic comedy “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (except that Apple isn’t implicated outright, but who else could it be?).

Director Michael Rianda and writing partner Jeff Rowe are children of that pre-iPhone era, and together — aided by a small army of animators at Sony Pictures Animation — they’ve hatched a subversive delight that should appeal to Gen Y adults and tech-savvy kiddos alike. That’s because the tongue-in-cheek, “Terminator”-esque machine uprising isn’t really the hook here. Rianda and Rowe (also credited as co-director) based the characters on their own families, so the oh-so-relatable Mitchells are simultaneously universal and ultra-specific, but definitely not just some generic sitcom clan besieged by robots.

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