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Movie Reviews

M3GAN ★★★



Directors: Gerard Johnstone

Cast: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Lori Dungey, Stephane Garneau-Monten

Release: 13th January 2023

Even before the film’s release, M3GAN was destined to become this year’s viral marketing queen. TikTok edits with the titular doll became a bit of a sensation on the platform – I mean, how couldn’t they? With a premise of a sassy, murderous doll on her way to slay everyone in the name of girlhood, Blumhouse knew exactly the kind of response they’d get with this release. But don’t let the memes distract you from the deadpan excellence of M3GAN: a smart, witty horror comedy that brings quality camp back to the big screen.

M3GAN, or Model 3 Generative Android, is the latest addition to Funki’s line-up of advanced children’s toys. While it’s still in the prototype stage, the doll’s creator, Gemma (Allison Williams), is determined to make this $10.000 miracle a success – no matter the consequences. When an unforeseen tragedy forces the inventor to become a parental figure for her niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), M3GAN casually joins the duo as the child’s emotional support. There’s just one small detail: maybe it was worth checking the safety mechanism first.

From its surreal faux advertisement opening that echoes the ill-fated Child’s Play reboot, the comparisons are inevitable: “yassified Chucky” may be your first response to the appearance of a blonde, culturally aware robotic doll. But screenwriter Akela Cooper (the scribe behind the supremely underrated Hell Fest and the modern classic Malignant) has a few tricks up her sleeve, expertly cutting between the doll’s campy delusions of grandeur and the film’s earnest emotional backbone. Amidst all the murderous delirium and clever jabs at tech capitalism, M3GAN finds itself exploring grief and attachment in children with a surprising amount of compassion and nuance.

But much like with Malignant, the camp sensibilities steadily creep in and never let go: just when you think director Gerard Johnstone (of Housebound fame) is done throwing in pop culture references and playing up the daftness of Silicon Valley-isms, the mischievous doll starts singing a lullaby version of Titanium. The film’s consistently playful tone is a stark contrast with some of the more sombre narrative beats, which at times feel mean-spirited enough to warrant a mature rating – this is absolutely a toned-down version of Cooper’s script, as some of the gore gags practically beg for an R-rated cut.

There is a method to this madness, and both Johnstone and Cooper are clearly operating on a similar wavelength, delivering a creepy romp that not once shies away from the absurdity of its premise. But in that sense, the film feels at once unabashedly silly and regrettably restrained, perhaps mostly due to the limitations of its studio-mandated cuts – the carte blanche given to James Wan with Malignant will most likely never be replicated. That being said, M3GAN is clever enough to weaponize its meme status and play on the unsuspecting crowd, blending sci-fi horror and straight-faced satire with royal grace. Thankfully, this is the kind of movie that understands it’s all fun and games until the doll waltzes her way to an office guillotine.

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