[Movie Review] M3GAN
M3GAN l Universal Pictures
Friendship has evolved and it’s low-key terrifying. But don’t worry. There’s plenty of awkward humor to soften the blow in M3GAN. The latest addition to the murder doll subgenre is guaranteed to illicit quite the chuckle, with the screenplay, direction, and comedic timing from the actors working together in scenes to tap into something both funny and unsettling. With that said, there’s been a lot of hype around M3GAN on social media. Is the hype worth it? If you’re looking for a silly distraction, I’d say yes.

Toy-company roboticist Gemma (Allison Williams) has been working on M3GAN for some time but has yet to crack the code for making the doll companion tick. Under pressure to hit deadlines, Gemma has enough on her plate. Then her sister and brother-in-law die in an accident, leaving her to deal with her orphaned niece, Cady (Violet McGraw). Ill-equipped emotionally to handle the child but refusing to give her up to her in-laws, Gemma zeroes in on finishing up M3GAN. From then on out, it’s a slow-rolling tumbling rock of chaos as we watch the self-learning program take the reins…and lives.

Written by Akela Cooper and directed by Gerard Johnstone, M3GAN doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows what kind of film it is. Entertaining and silly, the film also explores trauma, the dangers of technology, and human connection without gratuitously shoving it in our face. The humor that’s executed is the deliveryman of these themes.

You better watch out!

Courtesy Universal Pictures

With that said, there’s a bit of an issue with the character of Gemma. While it’s clear that she is not prepared for parenthood, there’s a genuine emotional disconnect across the board when it comes to Allison Williams’ performance and the development of the character. The lack of grief regarding her sister’s death and Cady’s plight is glaring and reads as something left on the back burner in development. Why? The character isn’t emotionally disconnected. She cares for her work. She’s a little awkward and prideful, and she gets along well with her colleagues. For a film centering on grief, Gemma’s character is a missed opportunity.

As for Violet McGraw, it should go without saying that she is one to look out for. She’s shown potential in “Haunting of Hill House” and short films like “Grummy,” but this is her film. When she is required to be emotionally volatile, the young actor really goes all in. Working well off of the M3GAN doll, she steals every scene she’s in. That’s tricky to do considering how much M3GAN draws us in with her progressively catty mean-girl shenanigans.

Then there’s M3GAN. The design is spectacular and will inspire cosplayers. The fusion of voice work, puppetry, physical actor performance, and more comes together to create something special. At times, I did wish there was more of a connection between the physical performance and the animatronic motions for continuity. The dancer-like fluidity is sometimes distracting.

Final thoughts on M3GAN

Courtesy Universal Pictures

Is M3GAN perfect? No, but it is entertaining. The humor engaged is great. The over-the-top scenarios as the doll progressively escalates will make you laugh at the absurdity of the situation, even if there’s a plothole as to how she’s able to do so much (I won’t go further due to spoiler territory). The absurdity is entertaining enough in execution that you can push the convenience of the character’s evolution to the back burner.

Does it live up to the hype? I’d say a little bit. It’s entertaining and silly. There’s just enough horror massaged into this film that will leave you feeling tense. Heck, Violet McGraw’s Cady is sure to make people uncomfortable in their seats. But there are issues that, depending on the viewer, may be difficult to ignore. So, go in keeping your expectations reasonable and you should be fine. Oh, and if you hated Furbies growing up, the first ten minutes will be uncomfortable.

For anyone concerned, there is implied animal death and one assault scene that might trigger.

M3GAN will play in theaters on January 6, 2023.

Sarah Musnicky
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