Friday, January 6

M3GAN Review


Dir: Gerard Johnstone

Starring: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, and Jen Van Epps

1h 42m

History has demonstrated that the first week of the new year doesn’t typically offer the finest selection of scary movies.  But director Gerard Johnstone, whose last foray into genre territory was 2014’s wickedly humorous and horrific “Housebound,” challenges with “M3GAN” an absolute surprise of sinister fun and killer-robot-doll mayhem.

Written by Akela Cooper, who stunned in 2021 with the script for “Malignant,” the story begins by introducing a family driving during a snowstorm.  The daughter, Cady (Violet McGraw), sits in the back seat playing with an annoying furry toy while the parents bicker in the front seat about driving conditions.  Unexpectedly, a snow plow hits them head-on, leaving Cady orphaned and sent to live with her Aunt Gemma (Allison Williams). 

While the film may begin with a familiar horror movie troupe, things get much creepier and weirder once Cady meets a new toy built by her robotics expert Aunt.  The toy is called M3GAN, which stands for Model 3 Generative Android, and it’s a life-sized doll that looks like an adolescent young girl with blonde hair, a rubber face, and creepy eyes.  M3GAN sings, dances, and offers emotional support while continuously adapting and learning from the child that pairs with it.  Cady and M3GAN become fast friends, helping Gemma save her job at a corporate toy company that hopes to launch the advanced technology before competition can duplicate it. 

“M3GAN” lives and breaths on its understanding of the tone it’s implementing, which consistently aims for campiness and humorous qualities with a mix of horror scare tactics.  The inclusion of a hilarious toy commercial to start the film, M3GAN singing a laugh-out-loud lullaby, and a wild dance number that transitions to a chase scene make it clear that the film is having loads of fun.  The horror elements are minor setups for unfrightening jump scares, and much of the gore and death happens off-screen.  However, Johnstone understands how to build tension and compose a scene for the thrill of seeing M3GAN inflict retribution on some awful people. 

The film sneaks some commentary concerning the overuse of technology for children and how more significant technological advancements have created a rift in the family structure.  Still, it never delves much deeper below the surface.  There are a few moments when the narrative momentum stalls, but once the film moves into “Terminator” territory with its killer robot vibes, “M3GAN” operates for pure entertainment value.  Writer Akela Cooper is an exciting voice in genre storytelling, and director Gerard Johnstone understands what to do with the script here.  “M3GAN” is an unexpectedly good time at the movies. 

Monte’s Rating

3.25 out of 5.00

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