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For modern technology, taking over the world is no problem. Conquering the Mitchells, though? That’s more of a challenge. The new, hilarious animated comedy film The Mitchells vs. The Machines follows the dysfunctional Mitchell quartet — plus their wobbly-eyed pooch, Monchi — as they grapple with both the robot apocalypse as well as their own, smaller family crisis.
While the tech-savvy, film school-bound Katie (Abbi Jacobson) can’t wait to leave the nest, her nature-loving dad, Rick (Danny McBride), isn’t quite ready to let go. So, Rick decides to turn Katie’s voyage to college into a fully-fledged family road trip. However, during a detour to a schlocky dinosaur-themed roadside attraction, the machines rise up, and the family finds itself fighting all things that go beep-boop. Pretty soon, the Mitchells are the only humans that haven’t been captured by the nefarious Pal machines, and end up as the world’s unlikely last hope.
The Mitchells’ efforts to take down the destructive computers are the key to saving both mankind and their family. Along the way, there are also a ton of Easter eggs and other small details stuffed into the story, the setting, the dialogue, and the rest of the Mitchells’ colorful, action-packed world. Here’s a look at some of the finer details that you might’ve missed in The Mitchells vs. The Machines.
All the cinematic callbacks
When we first meet Katie, we learn a lot about what drives her. While her father is an avid outdoorsman, her mother Linda (SNL veteran and The Good Place scene-stealer Maya Rudolph) is a school teacher with good vibes to spare, and her little brother Aaron (Michael Rianda) is obsessed with dinosaurs, Katie loves movies. She loves watching movies, she loves making movies, and she is absolutely chuffed that she’s going to get to study movies at the college of her choice.
As such, Katie’s room is a tribute to her cinematic interests, filled with posters aplenty, some of which are fake, and some of which are not. One real film poster hanging on Katie’s wall is for Isle of the Snake People, a 1971 Spanish-language horror film that is rather obscure, proving Katie’s commitment to finding diamonds in the rough. Meanwhile, Katie’s own mini-movies, most of which star her dog Monchi, her brother Aaron, or her homemade sock puppets, are inspired by real-life classics. Judging from Katie’s stack of homemade DVDs, she borrowed from cult favorite (and box-office flop) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Y Tu Mamá También, kung-fu classic Fist of Fury, and plenty more while crafting her personal filmography.
The cinematic nods in The Mitchells vs. The Machines don’t stop with Katie’s collection, though. The filmmakers behind the movie also use The Mitchells vs. The Machines pay homage to some of their favorites, including a direct mention of George A. Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead during the big mall fight and quite a few nods to Star Trek, as seen in the movie’s motel names.
A timely favorite
The movie that gets the most mentions throughout The Mitchells vs. The Machines, however, is a film called Roboslayer 4, which is a cult classic that Katie simply cannot get enough of. While Roboslayer 4 isn’t a reference to a real film, it does seem to hold some particular significance to Katie’s journey.
While we don’t know a lot about Roboslayer 4, its marketing tagline is "the brain exploders," as evidenced by the artwork on Katie’s wall. We can also infer from the title that the movie is probably about, well, robot slayers. And, as The Mitchells vs. The Machines reaches its climax, it appears that Katie’s family is pretty much living out Roboslayer‘s sequel — they, too, must learn how to slay some robots. What’s more, Katie’s most brilliant and effective robot-fighting technique is to temporarily melt the robots’ brains with confusion over whether poor Monchi is a dog, a pig, or a loaf of bread. Finally, Katie films the robopocalypse the entire time, and while it’s unclear if she’ll edit her new footage into her own Roboslayer redux, if her favorite film is anything like its title suggests, she’d be well within her rights to do so.
The engine that could
A lot of the action in The Mitchells vs. The Machines is made possible by the fact that the family’s car is a very humble little ride without a modern chip that can be hacked by the Pal system. The robots in the film specifically tell us that the vehicle is a burnt orange 1993 station wagon, and upon closer inspection, we can see that it is the epitome of a sensible vehicle — as in, its make is Sturdy, and the model is literally called Sensible.
Now, this car has clearly been a staple of the Mitchells’ lives for quite some time, as its bumper bears numerous stickers that have been collected over the years. It’s clear from these emblems that the vehicle belongs to both mom and dad, too, as nature-themed stickers compete for attention with peppy "Enjoy the Little Things" decorations. But, in the end, the fact that this vehicle is so outmoded and well-worn proves to be a major boon for the Mitchells, since the outdated tech allows the family to avoid detection by the corrupted computers running around and the car’s stick shift helps them overcome a number of major obstacles on their journey. Who says a practical car doesn’t have its perks?
Jewelry for the digital age
One small detail in The Mitchells vs. The Machines that might not immediately catch your eye is how the ladies of the movie wear their obsessions with modern technology on their sleeves — or, more specifically, their ears. Yep, not only are Linda and Katie guilty of regularly breaking Rick’s "no screens allowed at the dinner table" rule, but their jewelry choices specifically reflect their fascination with all-things digital.
Katie, for example, wears a pair of lightning earrings. While that might just seem like a idiosyncrasy that reflects her one-of-a-kind personality, it may also be a nod to the fact that she always has a device running — that particular symbol looks a lot like the charging symbol on modern phones. Meanwhile, Linda’s earrings are in the shape of hearts. Considering her obsession with creating the perfect family photo and the neighbors’ Instagram feed, Linda’s choice of jewelry might be a wink to her all-consuming desire to get some "likes" on social media.
If you look closely enough, you might spot a few familiar names scattered throughout The Mitchells vs. The Machines‘ set dressing. For one thing, we see the name Abbey in the background during Katie’s heartbreaking school presentation, which happens to be the name of the girl who causes her little brother some heartache a few years later.
More prominently, when the Mitchells first visit the roadside dinosaur exhibit, we can see a group of personalized license plates for sale in the gift shop. Two names in particular stand out from the rest. Included prominently in the list of nameplates are "Jeff" and "Michael," which just so happen to be the first names of the film’s writers and co-directors, Jeff Rowe and Michael Rianda. The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a pretty personal story for both filmmakers, who based aspects of the film and its characters on their own lives and families, so it’s likely not a coincidence that their names made it into the scenery as a nod to the fellas that made this story happen in the first place.
A creepy comeback
If you somehow made it all the way to this movie without ever being introduced to Furbys, well, know that this is a very real toy that has been delighting and frightening children for generations in equal measure. The Furbys who take over the mall in The Mitchells vs. The Machines are pretty much identical to the electronic toys that became such a big hit in the late ’90s, and yep, they were just as creepy then as they are here.
On the other hand, if you’re wondering where you might have seen these googly-eyed furballs wandering around before, well, The Mitchells vs. The Machines isn’t the first movie to bring these things off of the toy shelves and into our terror-stricken hearts. The animatronic animals also inspired the strange bejeweled monstrosities that were so memeably shown off in Uncut Gems. Furbies were also rereleased to toy stores in 2012. A Furby movie has been knocking around Hollywood for years, too. If and when that adaptation ever comes to fruition, the Furbies’ appearance in The Mitchells vs. The Machines proves the film could just as easily be a horror film as a cutesy live-action adventure movie.