The January post New Years horror release is usually dumped into theaters unceremoniously. You know, something studios want to forget. Well, that’s not the case in 2023. M3GAN is a horror comedy delight, finding a bunch of great ways to turn creepiness into abject silliness. Plus, M3GAN is sneakily well thought out while memeing it’s way into our ludicrous hearts. You’re right M3GAN, it’s nice to have a friend…to go see ya in a packed theater.
Poor 9ish year old Cady (Violet McGraw) has lost both of her parents. And maybe worse for her, she’s left in the custody of her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams). A work first technologically dependent adult, Gemma isn’t exactly the best adult to coax and nurture Cady. So instead, she passes the parenting onto her Model 3 Generative Android, or M3GAN (Amie Donald, plays her, Jenna Davis voices her). M3GAN bonds with Cady, and her AI brain adapts and learns what it means to be a parent to a child, maybe learning how to adapt her algorithm to commit murder along the way. Who knows?
The PG-13 rating hampers M3GAN a bit. It really dials down the bloody mayhem the story should have been building towards and the big climactic viral sequence in the movie suffers as a result. But while I was a tad disappointed, it didn’t ruin the movie because of how captivating M3GAN the CGI creation is. Amie Donald really nails the weird movements that make the audience transfixed on M3GAN whether it be a dance number, a chilling predator stalking, or a slow head turn. But special shout outs go to Jenna Davis. M3GAN’s voice is the sneaky MVP of the movie. Davis, director Gerard Johnstone and producer James Wan find the perfect combination of something that’s 80% sweet and 20% extremely inhuman and offputting, with a slow inversion of those numbers as the story reaches its climax. With neutered violence, the movie uses all of M3GAN’s physical and vocal traits to maximum effect, making a horror movie that everyone making it knows is better as a comedy. By playing it straight, M3GAN will make you laugh out lout multiple times, especially when Cady needs extra special care, forcing M3GAN to sing her a song.
The other sneaky MVP is Akela Cooper’s script. Everyone’s going to M3GAN expecting to watch a murderous doll join the ranks of Annabelle and Chucky. They also get…a technology allegory? That’s right. The movie has all sorts of things it’s saying about technology today. From the creator side, Gemma and her boss David (Ronny Chieng) don’t even consider any ramifications of their technological overreach here; all David sees is $$$$$$, and all Gemma sees is a way to pass parental responsibility to technological diversions. Though her character doesn’t quite work, Allison Williams does a pretty good job showing how much of a crutch technology has become to frazzled, distracted parents. More importantly, we see the consequences of ceding parenting through poor Cady, having to learn lessons through a screen, or a doll, which usually come with advertisements and their own self-serving agendas. From the opening ridiculously funny toy ad that opens M3GAN, the movie makes its intentions clear, and makes their point even clearer as M3GAN becomes more and more deranged.
It makes me sad that James Wan will probably never win a big time Oscar. All the guy does is make entertaining movies, especially horror films, ranging from the best of the decade, to the most ludicrously fun B movie schlock. Wan’s also directed Aquaman and a Fast and Furious movie. Is he playing a Wan universe long game? Are we gonna get Vin Diesel, Jason Momoa, and Patrick Wilson’s Ed Warren arguing with Wilson’s Aquaman villain? More importantly…when are Annabelle, M3GAN, and Gabriel going to join forces? Oh, I’m giddy just thinking about that insane team up!