Gerard Johnstone helms his sophomore feature-length project with M3GAN. Written by Akela Cooper, from a story by Cooper and James Wan, the film begins with a family traveling to a ski lodge. Unfortunately, an accident takes the lives of mom and dad. Their daughter, Cady (Violet McGraw), is severely injured but lives. She’s then entrusted to the care of her aunt, Gemma (Allison Williams), a brilliant roboticist at the company Funki.
While dealing with her own grief over the loss of her sister, Gemma tries her best to console her 9-year-old niece. Upon seeing Cady’s reaction to the robots she works on, Gemma finds renowned energy to finish an almost scrapped project. Said project takes the form of M3GAN, which stands for “Model 3 Generative Android.” M3GAN (Amie Donald is the body while Jenna Davis is the voice) is intended to become Cady’s best friend and help her overcome the recent tragedy. But, M3GAN begins to learn and adapt, and when people hurt Cady, intentional or not, the robotic doll seeks deadly vengeance.
“…when people hurt Cady, intentional or not, the robotic doll seeks deadly vengeance.”
M3GAN is a terrific surprise, though it is not without its issues. For starters, there’s the court-appointed therapist, Lydia (Amy Usherwood). The problem isn’t with Usherwood nor the character’s dialogue, but rather her entrance. It appears she shows up after Gemma and Lydia have been back at Gemma’s place in Washington (state) for a day. It’s entirely unreasonable for someone to have adapted and made the necessary changes in one day. It sets up some awkward and unnecessary tension that leads nowhere. If Lydia is meant to make a house visit sometime after that initial day, then the edit is poorly done and doesn’t convey that time jump well.
The other flaw is the sometimes wonky editing. While only happening occasionally, Jeff McEvoy’s frenetic cuts do not always make following the action possible. When M3GAN chases Cady’s bully through the woods, it is sometimes unclear how close she is to him. During the climactic battle, the ever-important Bruce slips and falls. What he trips over is anyone’s guess, as the editing is so quick it is not clear in the slightest. While neither these edits nor Lydia’s poor timing brings the movie down much, they momentarily break one out of the intense grip it achieves on the audience.
See, M3GAN delivers in every way that truly counts. For starters, it has a wicked and very satirical sense of humor. While the story kicks off with the tragic accident, the horror flick actually begins with a commercial. It’s an overly slick, goofy ad for Funki’s latest toy. It’s destined to be one of the funniest scenes in any movie this year. M3GAN herself is also quite amusing, making the most of the expected one-liners during the potential kills. Then there’s the incomparable Ronny Chieng as Gemma’s boss David. The stand-up is hysterical from start to finish. Watching him squirm during M3GAN’s demonstration to the board is funnier than words can describe. Wisely, Cooper never loses the comedy streak, keeping it alive and well for the entire runtime.
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