REVIEW: “M3GAN” (2023)

Call her Chucky for a new era. M3GAN (pronounced “Megan” and short for Model 3 Generative Android) is a lifelike doll that uses cutting edge artificial intelligence. Much like the creepy My Buddy doll from the “Child’s Play” movies, M3GAN has been developed and programmed to be a child’s best friend. But unlike My Buddy, M3GAN is not quite ready for mass production which becomes abundantly clear after a prototype goes homicidal.

And that’s pretty much the gist of “M3GAN”, the new horror film from producers Jason Blum and James Wan. It’s directed by Gerard Johnstone and written for the screen by Akela Cooper (“Malignant”). The story (conceived by Cooper and Wan) doesn’t pack much in terms of twists. It’s pretty straightforward which works both for it and against it. But few people going to see “M3GAN” will be worried about the intricacies of the story. They’re there to see a killer robot doll go berserk, and they’ll get their money’s worth…sort of.

Allison Williams plays Gemma, a roboticist at a high-tech toy company called Funki. She’s the inventor of the eponymous state-of-the-art doll which she has been working on with her two assistants (Jen Van Epps and Brian Jordan Alvarez) behind closed doors and without the okay from her high-strung boss, David (a hilariously over-the-top Ronny Chieng – an early Razzie frontrunner).

Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

One day the workaholic Gemma gets hit with some tragic news. Her sister and brother-in-law have been killed in a horrific car accident, and she’s been given custody of their only daughter, Cady (Violet McGraw). The two have a hard time connecting at first as Gemma knows nothing about being a mother, and Cady tries to deal with the trauma of losing parents.

To help out, Gemma introduces Cady to her M3GAN prototype (played physically by Amie Donald, voiced by Jenna Davis) and it doesn’t take long for the two to connect. As M3GAN learns and adapts to her new best friend, she not only becomes a security blanket for Cady, but she begins to fill some of the parental duties for Gemma. Cady’s growing attachment and Gemma’s dependence on M3GAN lead to some pretty obvious conflicts. But things really go south once M3GAN becomes self-aware and takes her role as Cady’s protector to a deadly extreme.

The film’s messages throughout couldn’t be more obvious, specifically in its examination of modern day parenting and our over-reliance on technology. Those are worthwhile subjects, and I wish the movie had dug deeper into them. But the filmmakers are far more interested in delivering straight-up genre entertainment which “M3GAN” (after a surprisingly languid start) finally begins to deliver. But even then it sputters in places, only really kicking into gear in the final 15 minutes.

Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Surprisingly “M3GAN” isn’t the slightest bit scary, nor is there an ounce of suspense. You won’t find any big twists or surprises, so you pretty much know where the story is going from the start. On the flip-side, there are a handful of good laughs (some intentional; others unintentional) that lighten things up a bit. I can’t help but think that “M3GAN” would have potentially made for a pretty good black comedy, but the movie (understandably) never commits itself to it.

While the story is fairly light and predictable and the characters all march to a pretty familiar beat, those aren’t what hold the movie back. The biggest frustration is with how watered down the film feels. I get going for a PG-13 rating in hopes of getting a bigger audience and earning more money. But “M3GAN” is surprisingly tame and the movie suffers as a result. The kills are barely shown and the bloodshed is at a minimum. With a premise this bonkers I really wanted them to go for it. Instead they chose to play it safe.

Yet despite those complaints, there is some fun to be had with “M3GAN”. It may not do anything all that fresh, and it’s hardly anything revolutionary. Still, if you’re a horror fan and you just want some light and easy entertainment, this probably has you covered. But me, in between the occasional giggle I found myself counting the missed opportunities and hoping they would really let loose. Sadly, they never did. “M3GAN” opens in theaters today (January 6th).

VERDICT – 2.5 STARS

11 thoughts on “REVIEW: “M3GAN” (2023)

  1. My wife and I agree if you make a movie like this and don’t go with a hard R-rating, why even bother? She doesn’t like horror movies, but considering the usual sad slate of January releases, she might have given this one a go if the makers let themselves go in making the film.

  2. I’m bummed that it’s PG-13 though I’m sure there’s an R-rated version of it that might be more fun. Already, it’s getting raves from both audiences and critics and if the R-rated version is considered superior. Then I’m on board for the sequel.

    • Yes, it’s getting rave reviews but honestly I think the praise is over-done. It’s not THAT good of a movie and it certainly has issues. When I was entering my Rotten Tomatoes score I noticed it was well over 90%. I’ll be honest, that really surprised me.

  3. Was hoping to hear this one would be really good. But might be a decent watched for me and daughter #3, my horror movie buddy since no one else will watch them with me. Seems like it had a lot more potential.

    • Definitely had a lot more potential. You can see the missed opportunities all through it. That being said, I did give it a fresh mark on Rotten Tomatoes so it’s not a horrible movie by any stretch. But you sure can see how it could’ve been so much better.

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