M3GAN Review

PLOT: A robotics engineer invents a robotic doll that develops a (murderous) mind of her own.

REVIEW: Hollywood loves a killer doll. Think about some of the great ones, like Fats from Magic, Chucky – of course – and add M3GAN to the list thanks to Blumhouse and Atomic Monster’s modestly budgeted crowdpleaser. Directed by Housebound director Gerard Johnstone with a camp vibe that makes it feel very much in the mode of producer James Wan’s Malignant, M3GAN stars Allison Williams as a robotics genius named Gemma, who works for a big toy company. She’s invented a pet substitute toy called Purrpetual Pets that are all the rage but has started getting knocked off by competitors. But, she’s on to something much bigger – a humanoid robot that acts as a constant companion to their child owners. She finds a great test subject in her niece, Violet McGraw’s Cady, whose parents just died in an auto wreck. Unable and unwilling to be a parent – at least at first – she gives the child M3GAN, and soon they become inseparable enough pals that her boss realizes they’ve got a revolutionary piece of AI on their hands – but there’s a problem. Gemma has no idea the tech she’s unlocked, and soon M3GAN develops a mind of her own.

Now, here’s the thing about this movie – it’s deliberately campy. If you’re expecting a legit horror movie, you’ll be disappointed. While it has a ton of carnage, I’d say it all weighs more towards the action side of the equation than horror, with the film playing out a lot like Child’s Play meets The Terminator, albeit at a fraction of the cost. At a rumoured $12 million budget, Blumhouse has stretched the budget to make M3GAN look like it cost a lot more, and it doesn’t suffer from the cheap look familiar with other Blumhouse titles like the dire Firestarter remake. M3GAN is a real movie.

For the most part, this is a top-shelf comedy thriller, with M3GAN a fun creation. She’s played by a combination of Amie Donald (performing the movement) and Jenna Davis (performing the voice), and she could well become a genre icon. If the movie does as well as Universal seems to think it will, you haven’t seen the last of her. My only issue with M3GAN is that the doll is so creepy it’s hard to believe any parents would ever drop 10k on her as a gift for their child. However, the film has an intelligent script by Akela Cooper, which addresses the fact that toys like this could indeed become addictive to kids and that these techno-based toys are already defacto babysitters and could one day become surrogate parents.

M3GAN, clip

These ideas run secondary to the movie’s fun quotient, with Williams again showing promise as a scream queen following her turns in Get Out and the underrated Netflix movie, The Perfection. Her Gemma is believably focused, and the evolution into a caring parent isn’t done in an overly sentimental way. At times this almost played like a horror movie version of Baby Boom, which I mean as a compliment. Violet McGraw is also likable as the traumatized Cady, and you buy her emotional involvement with M3GAN.

If I have any major complaints, it’s that it takes a little too long for the carnage to kick in, with M3GAN not making her first kill until a lot of time has passed. The movie also suffers from a watered-down PG-13 rating, which undercuts the climatic massacre set piece, which could have been a classic had there been more gore. Considering the budget, one wishes Universal had allowed them to go all out, especially given that the film was initially shot as an R, only for re-shoots to tone it down. It all comes to a predictable but pleasing end. Johnston shows a solid sense of humour, with M3GAN performing some unique song choices, such as Sia’s “Titanium” and the eighties classic “Toy Soldiers” by Martika. All in all, M3GAN is an enjoyable time at the movies and seems like a surefire franchise starter for Blumhouse. Hopefully, next time they’ll kick in a couple more buckets of blood, which this film was really crying out for.

The collectible makers at NECA have created life-size replicas of the homicidal AI doll M3GAN and are selling them for $495




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.