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On its surface, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a riotous Black Mirror for kids, but the heart of the film is the relationship between teen Katie (Abbi Jacobson), who's eager to leave the nest, and her dad, Rick Mitchell, who (like so many parents) is afraid of being left behind. In a departure from his usual brash roles, dad of two Danny McBride voices the gruff but lovable patriarch.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What drew you to this family film?
DANNY MCBRIDE: [Producer] Phil Lord and Mike Rianda, the director, contacted me about this, and gave me the quick pitch that it was a family movie. I had seen Into the Spider-Verse and The LEGO Movie, so I'm a fan of what Lord and [Christopher] Miller have been behind animation-wise. When Mike shared the artwork, the style of it, I thought it was so cool. Then I read the script and saw that it was a kids' movie, but it has dramatic moments and there's tons of heart and all the stuff that tends to get a good reaction in this house.
The movie is centered on technology and the role it plays in our everyday lives. How are you and your wife, Gia, planning on handling cell phones and the Internet with your own children Declan and Ava?
You know, it's something that we constantly talk about. Everyone has these ideas of, "Well, we don't want them to have screens," but then this last year happens where everyone's just suddenly, locked in. I saw the transformation of [how] my son wasn't able to go to school or hang out with his friends, and then suddenly when he's playing Minecraft and he's on there with four, five kids, and I'm hearing him laugh, it just made me kind of think of it differently. It's not something we should keep them from. We should just understand how to make sure they're using it in a way that's adding to their lives and not distracting from it.
Yeah, as I was watching, I started thinking, "OK, my cell phone needs to go in the other room now."
That's what I loved about this movie: I like the idea for them to think that there's a cost to this. I mean, god knows the cigarette industries destroyed generations and generations, and people didn't really know the damage it was doing. Sometimes I wonder if that's what tech is gonna be for this generation.
I won't spoil this part for readers, but there's a hilarious bit with a screwdriver. What's the worst anniversary gift you've ever given Gia?
My wife and I will do a lot of anti-things. When we first started dating, on Valentine's Day we would just go opposite. We wouldn't want to have a big fancy dinner or buy expensive stuff. We used to just go to the mall in Burbank, and we each had, like, 25 bucks and 45 minutes to find something for each other. And then we would share it in the food court and open up [Laughs] all the junk we bought for each other. Looking back, those gifts might not have been something worth bragging about, but at least it was fun procuring it.
Rick and Katie's theme song is T.I. and Rihanna's "Live Your Life." Do you have any special songs with your children?
When I used to drive my son to school every morning, we would always listen to "We Are the Champions" and "We Will Rock You." That was what we'd listen to every day when we'd go to school, it was just sort of like getting amped up. It was, like, half-joking, but it did become a real thing, where it's asked for sometimes if we're gonna do stuff that we might be a little nervous about.
Like all kids, Katie gets embarrassed by her dad. What would yours say is the most embarrassing thing you've ever done?
I'm sure it'll be all the movies I've been in. [Laughs] They just don't realize it yet.