In many ways, “M3GAN” is a concept we’ve seen numerous times below, dating as far back as Talky Tina’s murderous threats in the 1963 “Living Doll” episode of “The Twilight Zone.” The most famous of these murderous dolls, Chucky and the Zuni Fetish Doll from “Trilogy of Terror,” were energized by spirit possession. The “Puppet Master” series relies on magical spells instead. In recent years, with real-life advances in artificial intelligence, we’ve begun to see these malicious machines motivated by technology. With so many variations of a similar story and so many existing tropes in the subgenre, “M3GAN” stands out by being self-aware and surprisingly funny.
After being orphaned in a tragic accident, young Cady (Violet McGraw) goes to live with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams). Gemma is one of the lead robotic toy designers at FUNKI and is completely ill-equipped to care for a child. She’s under pressure to develop a new cutting-edge toy to present to her constantly exasperated supervisor David (Ronny Chieng). Instead of creating a cheaper version of their Furby knockoff, Gemma doubles down and finishes her Model 3 Generative Android. M3GAN (Amie Donald & Jenna Davis) is an incredible piece of hardware, including an advanced AI brain that has direct access to the internet. After bonding with Cady, M3GAN is given a prime directive to always protect Cady from being hurt. Regrettably, no one thought to include Asimov’s Three Laws in her programming.
From this point on, the plot is quite predictable. The fun comes instead from the unpredictable humor. The film never takes itself too seriously. As the malice ramps up, we’re treated to familiar threatening shots of the killer coldly staring at their victim. In a true horror movie, it would be chilling, but here it’s delightfully comical. Secondary characters react to this manifestation of the uncanny valley exactly like we would expect them to, and it’s a joy to watch. M3GAN occasionally breaks into song, piano, or dance, to the point that it almost qualifies as a musical, but her choices are so on the nose that even those are jokes.
The best words to describe this movie almost sound like insults, but they are meant as compliments. It’s absolutely silly in parts. The plot is ridiculous on multiple levels. It’s campy but better. It’s “polished camp.” The PG-13 may leave many horror enthusiasts disappointed, but the upside is more people will have the chance to enjoy this surprise gem.