January 6th, 2023
STARRING: ALLISON WILLIAMS, VIOLET MCGRAW, RONNY CHIENG, JEN VAN EPPS
DIRECTED BY: GERARD JOHNSTONE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
January is typically a dumping ground for movies. Not in 2023, for we are blessed with the first hit of the new year and it comes in the form of a robotic doll called M3GAN. It’s not a concept we haven’t seen before. Movies such as Child’s Play, Annabelle, or 2016’s The Boy all captured creepy dolls coming to life and haunting our dreams. But director Gerard Johnstone and the creative writing of Akela Cooper have something bold and beautiful on their hands. In a unique mixture of comedy, social commentary, and horror, M3GAN is instantly a cultural and cinematic phenomenon.
The premise is that little Cady (Violet McGraw) has lost both of her parents in a horrific car accident and now her out-of-touch Aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) must take over as guardian. For Gemma, she may work at a mega-toy corporation, inventing the newest gizmo for kids to play with, but she knows nothing about parenting. She sees that Cady is lonely and wants to connect. It inspires her to put together her newest invention the M3GAN or Model 3 Generative Android. It’s a more-than-life-size doll, fully operational, and paired with your kid so it can meet all of its wants and needs for play. Who needs friends or parents when you can have a M3GAN?
Cady and M3GAN get closer, to the point where much like a cellphone or an iPad she becomes in constant need of her “friend”. As Gemma tries to break the unhealthy connection, she has the pressure of impressing her boss David (Ronny Chieng) and making the new toy unveiling go smoothly. That is when things in M3GAN start acting “off”, ignoring directives, and having her sense of self. As one can predict, when androids are given access to the world, they tend to take it. It may take a bit to get to the great stuff but when M3GAN has unleashed the narrative is extra groovy.
A large amount of praise belongs to the inventiveness and risk-taking by Johnstone and Cooper (the latter is the brilliant scribe of Malignant). To put it into context, this may be a horror film, but there is also a delightful mix of laughs. The film opens with mock commercials– similar to Larry Cohen’s The Stuff or Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers– setting the table with a heaping bowl of satirical realism. We also hear M3GAN singing songs such as Sia’s “Titanium” in her creepy twinkly voice. And then she starts to become the murder doll, which although could be better with an R-rating, still has enough slashing to fill your horror battery.
It’s almost unfair for the remainder of the cast as the doll truly does steal the show. Williams is serviceable and the supporting players are relatively there to react. And all of that is okay. Why M3GAN works is that it knows exactly what it is. The marketing behind it has been gold but that blends into the creative style of Johnstone and his crew. It may be campy but there is still great craft. The choreography, the special effects, the messaging about our use of technology, and a new killer toy that gives Chucky competition.
M3GAN is the first hit of the new year and a pop culture moment that audiences will enjoy as pure entertainment. The robot does it all. She charms, computes, comforts, murders, and dances her way to the top. You just have to get your butt in the seats to see M3GAN. She’s the toy that will become a part of the entire cinematic family.
M3GAN IS PLAYING IN THEATERS FRIDAY JANUARY 6TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady