The guys behind the Lego Movie and Into the Spider-Verse bring us a funny family film.
Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is a college-bound aspiring filmmaker. Her brother, Aaron (Mike Rianda), is a dino-loving pre-teen, her dad, Rick (Danny McBride), is an outdoorsman, and her mom, Linda (Maya Rudolph), is an upbeat first grade teacher. After fighting with her dad the night before she is supposed to head to college, Katie finds out that Rick’s plan to make it up to her is to take a cross-country trip with the family. Unfortunately, this is the same week when tech guy Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) announces an upgrade to his digital assistant PAL (Olivia Colman), that results in the robot uprising that is determined to end humanity. Eventually, the only humans who are not captured are the Mitchells, leaving them, along with two broken robots (Beck Bennett and Fred Armisen), as the only force that can save humanity.
As I have said multiple times in the past, I believe that the show Gravity Falls is one of the rare shows with no bad episodes. As such, anyone who worked heavily on the show should be assumed capable of delivering great work. Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, who both co-directed and co-wrote this movie, were both writers on that show. Add in the fact that the producers (and apparently partial joke writers) of this film were Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, writers of The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and you have a recipe for a good time.
Part of the success of this movie is that it balances sincere emotional moments with goofy comedy. You can believe that there is tension between Katie and Rick despite both of them often wanting to be on the same side. Katie is an artist who is constantly using computer technology in order to make films and Rick is completely computer illiterate and believes that filmmaking doesn’t provide secure employment. Their issues don’t feel forced at all because they both behave like a real parent and child, caring for each other but also not really understanding each others’ interests. Because of this, when the movie wants to tug at your heartstrings, it can do so in a way that hits you harder because it feels real.
As to the comedy, the movie has both the signatures of Gravity Falls and Lord and Miller, which is to say that it cashes in heavily on absurd lines that still somehow arise naturally. For example, and I’m only saying this because it was in the trailers, this movie genuinely manages to make a forty foot tall Furby shouting “LET THE DARK HARVEST BEGIN” in Furbish seem like a logical conclusion of a sequence of events. As the movie progresses, the humor gets more and more extreme and fast-paced, much like an avalanche of laughs. I’m not even positive how they manage to pull that off, but maybe that’s why I don’t have an Oscar.
The animation in this film is stylish, unique, and awesome. It’s an exaggerated use of cel-shading that I think is supposed to make the characters look like they were drawn in a 2-D cartoon style. Because the film is told from Katie’s perspective, the movie also repeatedly adds cute animations and musical cues that indicate her imagination is making everything more cinematic. It adds a nice touch, similar to the “pow” words and splash effects from Into the Spider-Verse.
The voice casting is naturally amazing. Abbi Jacobson pulls off a great emotional range. Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph are both amazing as the overprotective dad and the sensitive mom. Weirdly, though, I kept thinking that the characters seemed to be made for Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly (outdoorsman and sometimes flighty weirdo). Olivia Colman is a hilariously unexpected choice for an evil A.I. Eric Andre is perfect as the flighty Silicon Valley “tech bro” who clearly doesn’t think about his decisions very hard.
Overall, this movie was amazing. Recommend it highly.
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