Saturday, January 14, 2023

M3GAN: A Review



I, perhaps unsurprisingly, have never seen a Child's Play/Chucky film. I have heard many compare M3GAN the character to Chucky. I cannot offer a view on that. I can say that Megan (I'll stop using the stylized title and go for its phonetic pronunciation from now on) knows exactly what it is, does not cheat its audience and moves quite well.

After her parents' death, young Cady (Violet McGraw) is placed in the care of her aunt, Gemma (Allison Williams). Gemma has absolutely no skill with children, so Cady continues to struggle with her grief. Fortunately, Gemma also works for Funki Toys, where she and her team Cole (Brian Jordan Alvarez) and Tess (Jenn Van Epps) have created a new robot/doll they name M3GAN: Model 3 Generative Android. 

Gemma essentially uses M3GAN to care for Cady and well as to test its marketability. The doll is a wild success: Cady starts bonding with the doll and Gemma finds success in the eyes of her employer David (Ronny Chieng). However, it is not long before M3GAN starts becoming more and more menacing. Dogs, neighbors, bullying boys all should beware of M3GAN's total devotion to Cady. For her part, Cady appears to not see how M3GAN is dangerous. As the robot is about to launch, she decides she can do better than everyone else, leading to a murderous conclusion.

Megan leans in on the camp elements, but at least it didn't go all-in until the end (how else to justify Megan's bizarre dance before pursuing David). It is not as if Megan already did not have strange moments, such as her singing Titanium to Cady as a lullaby. By the time we have Megan menacingly playing Martika's Toy Soldiers on Gemma's piano, we left what little semblance of reality there ever was.

That, however, is not a criticism. Screenwriter Akila Cooper (who created the story with James Wan) and director Gerard Johnstone knew that the premise was already a bit familiar (machine going murderous). Therefore, we do not go deep into such things as Cady's grief or how Megan keeps going haywire. David's firm belief that people would pay $10,000 for one doll is almost amusing.

Megan embraces its premise by not trying to be smarter than the material or drowning the film in any kind of message. Instead, we get what we came for: a robot murdering people who get in her way. Unlike other films, Megan opts against being graphically violent. I know many people who wanted a lot of gore and blood. However, I think we got just enough to get things across. I actually think the lack of on-screen violence works better for the film, leaving things to our imagination.

I will say that there were elements that I was not comfortable with. Even if Megan going after bully Brandon (Jack Cassidy), both his language and ultimate end did bother me. I give Megan credit for not being as violent as it could have been. Still, seeing or imagining kids put in mortal danger does not sit well with me.

While Johnstone should be commended for keeping things flowing (Megan runs a brisk hour-forty-two minutes) he could not get good performances out of his cast. Williams looks bored, regardless of the situation. Granted, perhaps a little leeway could be given to when she struggles to interact with Cady, but her obliviousness to Megan's danger seems strange for someone meant to be intelligent. I doubt there was much emotion from Williams, as if she just wanted to move on.

I dislike bashing child actors because they are, after all, children. I think McGraw was serviceable but not strong. Most everyone else was acceptable. Chieng and Stephane Garneau-Monten as the bullying boss David and his seemingly meek assistant Kurt did stand out in a good way. Almost made me want to see a movie about them.

While Megan is not deep, it is entertaining. It gives audiences what they want, moves things along well and keeps the violence down. It also has a logical opening to the inevitable sequel (here's a hint: Kurt's secret files). Megan was a film that the audience that I saw it with enjoyed. I enjoyed it as well. It is not a great film, but I would put Megan above what is called "great art". 


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