In this laugh-out-loud family film, Rick (Danny McBride) knows he’s growing apart from his teenage daughter Katie (Abbi Mitchell), so he packs up his family, including his always upbeat wife Linda (Maya Rudolph), younger son Aaron (Mike Rianda), and their cross-eyed pug Monchi. College appears to be the lifeline to acceptance that Katie has been searching for, longing for with her whole heart, but this road trip may be the difference maker she didn’t know that she needed.
As the family drives across the country, PAL, the artificial intelligence creation of Dr. Mark Bowman (Eric Andre), revolts. Suddenly, a generic road trip to drop Katie off for college becomes the fight-or-die battle for the fate of the world. Together, the family will have to overcome its differences, and recognize that they are powerful and special just the way they are. The family that fights evil together stays together, like Last Kids on Earth with robots, or a very mild animated version of The Terminator franchise. And the animation itself is diverse and incredible.
The film has some insightful points to make about technology — and the way that we rely on machines, the way we surrender our privacy, and how sometimes technology keeps us from seeing each other. PAL is like a collision of Facebook and Alexa, and humanity’s inability to exist without WiFi is .. spot on. Add in Linda’s obsession with the “best of” pictures other families are always posting online, and you have several clear indicators of society’s struggle to see technology as a tool rather than being controlled by it. These are all useful things for people of faith and families to consider, so that we don’t lose sight of who we are supposed to be as Christians.
The family also experiences an opportunity to see each other as they are, and to realize the moments that they miss when they don’t value each other’s gifts. Instead of trying to be like other families, or meeting external expectations, the Mitchells discover that they are just who the other members of the family need, that they are normal just the way they are.
The Dove Take:
This exciting, funny, poignant film has all the right ingredients for a perfect family film, including lessons for discussion afterward, with none of the things that clutter other films like it.