Movie Review: M3GAN

“Sorry, I shouldn’t laugh” – the withdrawn detective upon recounting the grisly murder of a tween boy.

MEGAN or M3GAN or MԐGAN or M≡GAN, has become something of a meme, and unlike its forebear Morbius, this attention has translated into a modest box office splash. It also helps that M3GAN is a lot of fun.

The eponymous M3GAN is a marvel of artificial intelligence; a life-like doll programmed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. Designed by brilliant toy-company roboticist Gemma (Allison Williams), M3GAN can listen and watch and learn as she becomes friend and teacher, playmate and protector, for the child she is bonded to. That child is the newly orphaned Cady, who’s vulnerability activates a more sinister protective instinct in M3GAN, who proceeds to split the difference between Amazon’s Alexa and Child Play’s Chucky.

As you may have gathered from that less than inventive synopsis, M3GAN plays into the tropes and conventions of horror films so shamelessly that rather than wretch, you’re invited to laugh along with the film as it indulges in them. It is never scary, though M3GAN herself does posses a suitably uncanny valley thousand-yard stare, but it is consistently funny, and if you buy your ticket with this in mind, you’ll struggle not to warm to its downcast ludicrousness.

M3GAN

There is, however, a bevy of missed opportunities. Despite AI marking itself as one of 2023’s chief villains, M3GAN, the doll, doesn’t have quite the charm of M3GAN the movie, which is a shame considering its appreciation for horror from the ’80s to the present day. Think of the forces of personality defining classic slashers along the lines of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger, the vindictive Jigsaw, even the brutishly blank Jason. When the teens are all dispatched, it’s the killer that gets you back for the sequels (nowhere more so than in M3GAN’s clearest progenitor; Chucky). M3GAN herself, being a clinical tool, has little in the way of personality, even once things roll into the predictably less restrictive third act (this is where she lets loose with her trailer-made infamous dance routine). A sequel is already in the works, so hopefully we can expect an upgrade.

Though the PG-13 rating certainly curtails the slayings, another element of satisfaction left undercooked by M3GAN’s half-hearted horror credentials is the karma-kill. If we’re here to watch folks get dispensed with, the least you could do is make us despise them (one of the major reasons the typical slasher fodder is in fact comprised of air-headed teenagers). Though the film ensures that its victims are unlikeable, it doesn’t do much to guarantee that you enjoy their comeuppance.

There are some great movies in theaters now, and it’s tough to imagine even ardent fans arguing that M3GAN doesn’t amount to an unsubstantial whole, but that doesn’t get in the way of its camp. Try to catch it at a busy showing and enjoy the ride.