Have you ever wanted to recommend a movie to others — but knew you couldn’t wholeheartedly?
Such is the case with Netflix’s new animated children’s film “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (PG), which launches on the platform April 30. The film follows a quirky family of four as they take a cross-country road trip to drop their teenage daughter off for her freshman year of college.
Unfortunately for them, an army of man-made robots tries taking over Earth at this exact same time, and the foursome — dad, mom, teen daughter and middle school son — must work together to defeat these apocalyptic invaders.
Call it a cross between “The Incredibles” and “Home.”
It’s an offbeat plot, yes, but it’s also filled with great lessons for viewers, especially for families with kids. That’s because the father and daughter have drifted apart since her childhood and rarely see eye to eye.
The daughter, a social-media crazed girl named Abby, had secured airplane tickets for her trip to college, but the father — regretting the past and wanting to repair their relationship — cancels her flight and opts for a road trip as a last hurrah.
Thankfully, the road trip works. Abby and her father rekindle their relationship. She and her brother also learn to love each other’s quirks. When Abby is dropped off at college, hugging and smiling, Dad cries, and so did I.
It’s a plot that aims for the heart.
True to life
Most parents have a few regrets. Many teens go through a rebellious stage. And time does (seemingly) fly when you have children. One day they’re learning to walk. The next day, they’re learning algebra and then moving out.
The film’s message is to live life with grace and mercy, to forgive quickly and to treat each day with your children as a gift. For those who have regrets, the movie screams: It’s never too late to repair and restore a relationship.
The film doesn’t have any coarse language or sexuality, and the violence remains kid-friendly. Your kids are bound to hear rave reviews for the film. But it does have one important caveat that Christian families should consider.
During the movie’s final 90 seconds, we learn Abby is dating another girl. (“Are you and Jade official and will you be bringing her home for Thanksgiving?” her mom asks during a video chat. Abby replies, “Easy, mom. It’s only been a few weeks.”)
It happened so quickly and was so subtle my youngest children didn’t catch it. But it’s a part of the plot that parents need to know is coming.
Different Christian families will have different responses to the film. (Should you watch it and then discuss it? Watch it until the final 90 seconds? Don’t watch at all?)
Time-wise, the film is 99% family-friendly. It’s that 1% that will divide viewers.
Study: Netflix has the best parental controls
Netflix, the world’s most popular streaming service, also is the world’s leader in parental control.
That’s according to a new study of eight streaming services by the Parents Television and Media Council, which found that Netflix has the most robust parental controls, followed by Disney+ and Apple TV. Hulu, according to the study, has the worst.
Netflix stands above the rest by not only allowing separate children’s profiles — a feature found in other streaming services — but also by allowing parents to block specific programs and to limit profiles to certain maturity ratings, the study said.
The report criticized Hulu for not protecting parental profiles with a password, which means children “can view all content by simply switching profiles.” Hulu also does not allow parents to set age-range preferences within a children’s profile (which means PG-13 and TV-14 content is not separated from TV-PG or Y content.)
“We are encouraged that Netflix has made significant improvements to its parental controls … since our last report on streaming TV,” said Melissa Henson, program director for the PTC.
Read the full report at tabonline.org/parents-guide.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Reviews of films, books, music or other media that appear in TAB are intended to help readers evaluate current media for themselves, their children and grandchildren in order to decide whether to watch, read or listen. Reviews are not an endorsement by the writer or TAB Media.