The Mitchells Vs. The Machines – Katie Mitchell Special Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Dystopian fantasy in a family film… Can it be done? Should it be done? Has the subgenre of dystopia been overdone? Are we ready to see what happens when we rely so heavily on technology? Didn’t we ignore that same scenario in Wall-E? What about the kids? Will they even understand the situation or just go “ooohhh… pretty colors…”. All of these questions and more are answered below in my coverage of The Mitchells Vs. The Machines. Be sure to click the paid link at the end to get a great deal on a copy for yourself! Also, yes, I know this review is ultra-late. Life has happened, but I hope this review is worth the wait.


Katie Mitchell is headed to college.  She’s a creative spirit who makes short films featuring her dog as a cop, among other things.  The films are funny, spirited and have quite the following on YouTube. Linda, Katie’s Mom, is all encouraging. She is just excited for her daughter to be herself.  Rick, her father, is an anti-tech kind of guy.  He loves nature and once upon a time, the new family had to let their first home go, as they embarked on making their family larger.  The idyllic cabin they once lived in was a big deal for Rick.  Rounding out the Mitchell family is Aaron, Katie’s dinosaur fantatic brother and Monchi, the Mitchell’s pug.

On the eve of Katie’s departure to film school, Katie and Rick have a confrontation. She’s made one last short film before she leaves and wants everyone to view it.  With Rick withdrawn, and his continued hatred of tech driving the irritation from Katie, the father and daughter have a fight which leads to the destruction of Katie’s laptop.  As Katie finishes packing, Rick comes up with the “genius” idea of having a family road trip to bring everyone closer together before letting Katie go on to bigger things. Mortified and annoyed, Katie reluctantly gets into the family car and goes with it.

Along the way, the family has little arguments and disconnects and upon the arrival to a less than authentic dinosaur stop, The Mitchells bear witness to a terrible machine takeover led by PAL, an AI assistant created by Silicon Valley guru Mark Bowman.  What was meant to be a help in daily life, PAL, now has their sights set on destroying humanity and taking over the world with Tech.  The loss of Wi-Fi globally contributes to mass hysteria, and the plan is all under way, with even Dr. Bowman trapped by PAL.  That is, until the Mitchells come together to save the day.

The Mitchells Vs. The Machines doesn’t break new ground in the “dysfunctional family coming together to tackle a bigger issue” department.  The story starts off predictably after a teaser opening.  The film begins to lay out some seriously interesting things within the early character development.  There are no things hiding in these characters.  Everyone, despite it being an animated film is fully fleshed out. Katie is a lesbian and has come out to her family.  There is no evidence of this in the film, but her pride pin and crush on a new classmate at her school are presented naturally and for me, in a much-appreciated way.  It’s nice to see the comfort of presenting LGBTQ characters in family films without there being a negative dynamic to them.  Rick and Linda are open minded and accepting of their child without issue.

Rick, in fact, has more of a problem with his daughter’s reliance on technology.  He’s an outdoorsman, and handy too. He’s armed with the right screwdriver for any situation.  Linda is a sunny mom, looking for the best in her family, even when things are almost never perfect.  Aaron is goofy, immature and even a little too silly, but he delivers some of the best moments in the film with his tirades on preserving prehistoric accuracy to his beloved dinosaurs (“These aren’t historically accurate! There are no feathers!”).

The dystopian aspect of the machines taking over the world is something we see in mainstream, non-family-based films a lot lately. What turns the subgenre on its ear here is that we can have some fun with it.  There’s no “what ifs” here to make us question anything.  The film has a way of saying “not if we can make it happen, but more so when” that feels refreshing.  It’s that hopefulness that can make even a grown man like me begin to care for those characters.  It also helps when you have an ace voice cast to keep your attention – Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Olivia Colman, Eric Andre, Chrissy Teigan, John Legend, Charlyne Yi and Conan O’Brien – All in fine voice, with lots of good humor, make their characters leap out of that animation space into a fun and funky reality.


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: HD, 1080P

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Mitchells Vs. The Machines was originally a Netflix release.  I have yet to check it out on there, but I’m guessing there the film is presented in 4K.  I don’t believe that there is anything that could improve upon this image, which I believe is gorgeous, colorful, and sharp as a tack.  As with most modern animation, the film is full of lush deep detail, and lots of demo worthy moments if you want to show the brightness of your particular TV.  I didn’t witness any softness in my viewing, and I loved how every set piece in the animation was dense with little homey or realistic detail.  I think I even noticed Shasta soda in the Mitchell’s kitchen.

Depth: Each scene typically drips with an almost 3D pop.  Maybe it’s the colors, maybe it’s the way the film was animated, but the vibrancy only enhances things in the depth department.  For me, certain sequences had an almost diorama feel. As you view them you see little nuances here or there, and there really are a lot of great depth moments to take in, especially when the titular machines begin to do their thing.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and dark. There aren’t a lot of dark scenes, but the details in dark clothing or hair/features is evident and excellent throughout.

Color Reproduction: Colors are the star of this show.  With candy coated hues throughout, animation fans will gobble this presentation up.  During the climactic scenes, the sky has some incredibly gorgeous hues.

Flesh Tones: N/A

Noise/Artifacts: Pristine.


Audio Format(s): English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit), French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit), Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps), Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese

Dynamics: Whereas The Mitchells Vs. The Machines excels in the visuals department, it does not repeat the excellence in the audio department.  The DTS-HD MA 5.1 Audio track is thoroughly modern, sometimes big and bright, but is also at time muddled, with dialogue taking a back seat to sound effects.  It’s one of those features where you have to have remote in hand to raise or lower the volume with the variance in sound effects and dialogue.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer is given plenty of time to work some magic, with music, explosions, cars, and more filling the bottom end with quite the bump, even if you’ve had to reduce the volume.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds show up for a lot of the scenes involving crowds.  They are used in decent ways throughout but are often the culprit of those loud/quiet moments that I mentioned above.  This means sometimes the surrounds can be an audio assault if you’re not prepared for it.

Dialogue Reproduction: As stated above, sometimes the dialogue can be placed in a second priority space, so it becomes difficult to distinguish what’s being said in some of the louder moments of the film.

** I never did catch the film on Netflix, so I can’t say if this is disc inherent or if the film was just mixed this way.  If I take a moment to check it out on the service, I will update to say whether or not the stream is affected.


Dubbed the “Katie Mitchell Edition”, the features included on The Mitchells Vs. The Machines are that of a filmmaker’s toybox.  We get to see Dog Cop 7: The Final Chapter (HD, 8:24), one of Katie’s YouTube films, 25 Minutes of rightly excised bonus scenes (All HD, All not completely finished, so in work stages if you will…) and Katie’s Cabinet of Forgotten Wonders (HD, 11:24 in total), which are mini featurettes about the making of the film, wrapping things up. (Titled: Katie-Vision!; Dumb Robots Trailer; The Original Mitchells Story Pitch; The Furby Scene – How? Why?; and Pal’s Worldrespectively.) The film also hit stores with a slipcover, DVD and Digital Copy too.  There is also a little guide inside the Blu-ray box, with teeny tiny writing from Katie herself.  It’s pretty cute, but in all honesty it feels a little fluffy for the adults looking more into the film’s progress and process.


I haven’t seen a family film like this in a while.  Something that steps out of the box, into a new direction for kid’s or family films.  The overall goal of The Mitchells Vs. The Machines is to bring those Mitchells together on something, and within the confines of the storyline, the family works together, struggles together, laughs, and cries together and eventually they save one another too.  I was totally refreshed by this film and the characters.  For a solid one-off story, this one is a top animated film for me now and one I would never hesitate to recommend to people who love good quality animated fare.

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