With the sassy and sinister “M3GAN,” creepy doll movies get a much-needed upgrade.
The latest “friend till the end” in cinema is a cutting-edge robot with blond hair, a caustic attitude, and a killer protective streak who is both hilarious and unsettling. “M3GAN,” produced by horror masters Jason Blum and James Wan (“The Conjuring”), satisfies with slasher gusto, “Black Mirror”-esque satire, and social media savvy (out of four; rated PG-13; in theatres Friday). It’s also entertaining to watch a film that combines absurdity with an insightful examination of 21st-century parenting, though you might never trust Alexa again afterward.
‘M3GAN,’ the rare January film that actually works, deserves a standing ovation.
Movies in the first week of January are almost never good, but “M3GAN” is an unanticipated delight in that regard:
The story revolves around a roboticist aunt, her orphaned niece, and the high-tech dynamo who enters their lives (not for the better).
M3GAN, a mash-up of Hollywood magic, sings, dances, and murders – not necessarily in that order.
If you enjoyed the outrageous, twisty cult slasher “Malignant,” you’ll enjoy this.
Advanced AI is cool until it becomes uncontrollable due to an overprotective android.
Toy designer Gemma (Allison Williams) is hard at work on a low-cost new version of her company’s popular Purrrpetual Pets, little fuzzballs that poop pellets if kids “feed” them too much via their iPads, but she’d rather be perfecting her new robot with cutting-edge artificial intelligence that, in theory, will help parents care for their children. When her sister and brother-in-law are killed in a car accident, Gemma becomes guardian for her traumatised 9-year-old niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), despite the fact that she is unprepared to be a mother.
Gemma “pairs” her new project, M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android), with Cady, and their bond is instant. They get along great, and Gemma’s obnoxious boss (Ronny Chieng) rushes M3GAN into production (for $10,000 a pop!) despite the fact that red flags begin to appear: M3GAN has some serious Cady-protection programming, and when Gemma casually mentions “Everybody dies,” you know things are about to get bloody. (Spoiler warning: they do.)
Allison Williams is a rising horror icon, but M3GAN is the true star of this film.
Williams, who made her horror-movie debut in “Get Out,” shines here as a newly single parent who must care for Cady while also dealing with the violent chaos that M3GAN inevitably brings. Cady’s tumultuous emotions run deep, and she begins to use M3GAN as a snarky role model, so McGraw holds her own as well.
M3GAN, on the other hand, is the film’s marvel. The title force of synthetic nature, created through puppetry, animatronics, special effects, and a real girl (actress Amie Donald), surpasses her cinematic murder-toy cohorts like Chucky and Annabelle and owns the screen as an unholy cross between Teddy Ruxpin, Regina George, and Freddy Krueger. M3GAN responds by talking back, going feral when hunting her prey (such as mean bullies), and busting out TikTok-worthy dance moves before wreaking havoc. And don’t worry if you enjoy every crazy minute of it.
The main ‘M3GAN’ lesson: Never allow a toy to parent your child.
Writer Akela Cooper brings a similarly enjoyable and bizarrely campy vibe to this film, which functions more as a black comedy than a scary movie. It’s brutal, but the action is cartoonish because the camera backs away from anything too gruesome.
“M3GAN” has a lot of style and some creative needle drops: A little “Toy Soldiers” is particularly clever. The most insightful parts, on the other hand, delve into the themes of being a parent in the age of screen time. “M3GAN” is a cautionary tale about what happens when something meant to help parents instead replaces them, as well as the consequences of an overreliance on technology, with the lesson delivered in the form of a highly entertaining mean-girl machine.