Using a number as a letter in the title of your movie either says “This will be a cheeky bit of fun!” or “Repent ye sinners who dare watch this, for the screenwriter can’t even spell.” “M3GAN,” a troubling tale of Raggedy Ann on her very worst day, is blissfully far more purposefully silly than it is incomprehensible nonsense. That wasn’t a sure thing going in, as Akela Cooper also wrote “Malignant.” If you don’t remember “Malignant,” teach me how to forget.
“M3GAN” is sassy from the jump, teasing an inevitable car crash after a disturbingly plausible fake commercial for toys that are basically Furbys with a working digestive tract. Gemma (Allison Williams) is the brains behind those defecating devices. When her niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), is orphaned, Auntie has to become a mommy. This was very much not pinned to Gemma’s dream board. She immediately does what any of us would do: She quickly whips up an android that could take a Furby-sized dump on the Turing test.
One of the truly comforting things about “M3GAN” is that it is faithfully, exactly what you think a PG-13 movie about a muderbot moppet would be like. At first, things are great: The oh-no-bot helps Cady process her grief while doling out science facts and singing unintentionally haunting covers of exhausting pop songs. Then the AI does what AI will always do; it decides that protecting Cady means doing some death dealing.
Without any exposition or explanation, M3GAN basically assumes the powers of Neo from “The Matrix” and can control everything even loosely related to computers or electronics. An R-rated version would have been 90 minutes composed of what is only the glorious last 30 minutes here. Please let the sequel, “M3GAN2” or “M32GAN” or “MIIGAN” or whatever, go for the gory glory and let Small Wonder go full Cronenberg.
Williams is disturbingly believable playing an emotionally vacant, childless-by-choice scientist. McGraw does a legitimately sensational job not letting Cady become someone you root for the doll to dismember. But, as the future will almost certainly demonstrate, humans are irrelevant here. When M3GAN is turned loose, it’s not just a gender-flipped Chucky rehash. It is fully its own toy-from-hell, dancing for no reason and killing in needlessly creative ways.
Cooper’s script and Gerard Johnstone’s direction wisely don’t try to make “M3GAN” about anything. It’s not some clever wink-and-nod at the techno-obsession of modern youth. It doesn’t offer any wisdom about the “right” way to process grief. It never even espouses that children are worth the surrender of careers or life goals. It’s just a movie about a sentient robot toy that goes bonkers and kills people. Isn’t that comforting? Watching ongoing debates about whether “Glass Onion” really said anything of value (it did) or whether “The Menu” is successful satire despite being simplistic (it is) suggests that “M3GAN” is likely to be poo-pooed because it is what it is and nothing more. I, for one, am on the side of the killer robot. Please let the record reflect that.
Grade = B+
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Courtney Small at Cinema Axis says “Although primarily being a film about a killer toy, ‘M3GAN’ gleeful takes jabs at how freely we have given ourselves over to the machines. We let devices like Alexa have access to our daily calendars, the lights in our home, and even our Tinder profiles without thinking of the potential ramifications of this blind trust.”
Maggie Lovitt at Millennial Falcon Reviews says “She might be a pint-sized nightmare, but she’s also a dream come true for horror fans that err on the side of dark humor and realistic fears.”
Meagan Navarro at Bloody Disgusting says “Entertainment is the sole aim here, and on that, ‘M3GAN’ delivers. The memes are only getting started.”