“I’ve always felt a little different than everyone else, so I did what any outsider would do. Made weird art.”
Following an unconventional family unexpectedly caught in a robot uprising, The Mitchells vs The Machines is really about family relationships, and the need to find common ground and ways to communicate. Continuing the looser approach to animation style from Into the Spider-verse, the art direction blends detailed 3D animation, flatter cell-shading, and sporadic flairs through 2D overlays. The result lends the incredibly polished production a handmade feel, mirroring Katie’s amateur filmmaking and bringing to mind the creative low-fi filmmaking in Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind. Reference humour spans the generations, from Internet memes to older movies (numerous nods to Kill Bill are an unexpected choice). Like Wall-E there is an underlying warning about lazy reliance on technology, although it’s all rather on the nose, with the disaster caused by a young billionaire tech entrepreneur named Mark (“It’s almost like stealing people’s data and giving it to a hyper-intelligent AI as part of an unregulated tech monopoly was a bad thing”). Its depth may be limited to its family dynamics, but spending a couple of hours with the Mitchells is raucous fun and it is hard not to root for a family who plainly love one another, even if their abilities place them at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Incredibles.
This is a mirthless “comedy” that marked the first serious misstep from Apatow Productions, which seemed to have perfected the recipe for modern raunchy comedies through likeable three-dimensional characters and a dash of sweetness whilst avoiding over-sentimentality. The core concept to Drillbit Taylor — bullied highschool kids hiring an ex-military bodyguard who infiltrates their school to protect them — is promising, and ripe for satire. Its chief problem is lazy writing that not only forgets to insert any humour but fails even as light drama due to its flimsy caricatures of nerds who are simultaneously too stupid and shallow for the audience to relate. Even the charismatic Owen Wilson seems present solely for the pay-cheque. The film’s saving graces are that Wade’s throwaway romantic subplot is cute to see unfold, and it is always fun to see bully’s receive their comeuppance, no matter how ill-earned.
“I don’t know what to do, man. All these sites have different shit. There’s not a lot of consensus in the bomb disarming community!”
Ruben Fleischer’s feature-length follow-up to the excellent Zombieland is neither as fresh nor as successful, though much of the blame lies with a “comedy” script in which I can barely identify a single actual joke. With a hapless pizza delivery driver forced to rob a bank when two incompetent criminals strap a bomb to his chest, 30 Minutes or Less has the sensibilities of a slacker/stoner movie, where a functionally coherent plot is generally considered sufficient. Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari commit to their roles but their talents are largely wasted here. Thankfully, the film is only one and a half hours long; preferably it would have been 30 minutes or less.
“A huge earthquake happens, who do they rescue first? Actors. They’ll rescue Clooney, Sandra Bullock, me. If there’s room, you guys will come.”
If Ocean’s 12 was an excuse for Clooney and his actor friends to hang out at his Lake Como villa, This Is The End dispenses with the pretence entirely as Seth Rogan, James Franco and friends play themselves riding out the apocalypse at Franco’s house. The main cast toy with their public perception, though the film’s best conceit is the suggestion that, if the Rapture were to occur, no one at a Hollywood house party would notice. Most of the cameos are fun but forgettable, the standouts being those who play against type — a shameless Michael Cera and a violent Emma Watson. One imagines the general lack of female presence is a product of the fraternal nature of the friendship group behind This Is The End, but the near total absence of women is disappointing and to its detriment. The script is peppered with hilarity and entertaining moments strung together by lazy writing and tired gross-out humour. Comedies like this typically lose traction the longer they run but, despite frequently lagging in the middle and perhaps aided by a wafer-thin plot which requires little conclusion, the film closes surprisingly strongly, leaving a better overall impression than I would have expected halfway through.