REVIEW: Manic energy in ‘M3gan’ makes it a fun watch

Another addition to my never ending list of reasons why I fear a robot uprising.

The titular doll in “M3gan” is basically an android built by Gemma (Allison Williams), a robotics engineer working at a toy company that releases advanced products. While she’s at work on her latest project, her sister and brother-in-law are killed in a car accident.

Gemma’s niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), survived the crash and is now living with Gemma, but the girl has become depressed and reclusive. In trying to help Cady, Gemma activates M3gan to be a doll and friend to the girl. However, M3gan was still in the testing phase, and the artificial intelligence in the doll has the potential to be dangerous.

If a person watching “M3gan” starts to think ‘hey wait a minute, this reminds me of some other recent movie,’ it won’t be too surprising. This film noticeably shares a few story beats with the 2019 remake of “Child’s Play,” with a robotic doll becoming self aware and too overprotective of the kid they’re gifted to.

Fortunately, this new killer toy movie has enough of its own style to set itself apart. It’s a movie that is very self-aware, often infusing a bit of humor into scenes to succeed as a horror-comedy. Watching M3gan go about her antics in a sort of smug, ‘girlboss’ way is both freaky and funny, making for a rather entertaining experience.

The film has some satirical elements that work in its favor, too, giving the picture a bit of commentary. For example, the film touches on how technology in an unfettered environment can become an unhealthy stand-in for parenting, which isn’t exactly science fiction.

Courtesy Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures.

Additionally, the movie takes aim at how the push for fancier products can take the focus off of more important issues. It’s easy to think during “M3gan” that the robotics featured could be used in a 100 better ways for the world. Even a remote controlled robot the protagonist made in college could do wonders.

Honestly, the biggest problem with “M3gan” was that it didn’t really go far enough in a few categories. It doesn’t play more with its subtextual ideas and also doesn’t provide enough horror. The film clocks in at an hour and 40 minutes, and there’s definitely a feeling that more could be added to flesh this picture out.

The PG-13 rating also holds the movie back from what could have been a much bloodier affair. That’s not to say every horror should have a ton of gore, but an R rating with a sillier film like this can go a long way. The movie even seems like it’s setting up a killing spree and then it doesn’t happen.

Even though the film could have been meatier, “M3gan” has a good amount of things working in its favor, such as the cast. For example, Williams, who was superb in 2017’s “Get Out,” captures her character’s work obsession to advance technology nicely and portrays how she’s woefully unprepared to be a guardian.

“M3gan” has plenty of entertainment thanks to its comedy and thriller elements. Even though it retreads story beats from other works, it’s still sharp enough in its own right to have an identity. The horror could have been dialed up a bit more, but there are still a couple good moments on that end, too. 3.65 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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