ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
The horror world has no shortage of evil dolls whose stories have been told, from Annabelle to Chucky to Talky Tina and beyond. Recently, M3GAN joined that club, and I have a feeling she won’t be going away anytime soon.
Released last weekend, “M3GAN” follows the eponymous artificially intelligent doll who develops self-awareness and becomes hostile to anyone who comes between her and her human companion. She is brought to life by Funki roboticist Gemma (Allison Williams) as a companion for her niece, Cady (Violet McGraw) when she comes to live with her after her parents’ fatal car accident.
To start off, the movie definitely has quite a bit of creativity behind it, starting with the opening scene, which is a commercial for a new toy from Gemma’s company. The nostalgia factor was high and definitely reminded me of basically every toy commercial I ever saw growing up, and it also kind of reminded me of some of the “it” toys that were around when I was younger. It’s a very clever way to open the movie and definitely took me back, and I’m sure other viewers have memories of particular toy commercials from when they were growing up. Since Christmas has just come and gone, I also couldn’t help but think “Is this what EVERY toy company goes through when it comes to the holiday season?”
The cast of the movie is also very good, with a particular shoutout needing to go to Amie Donald, who physically portrays M3GAN (while Jenna Davis does the voice). Her acting is amazing and there are some scenes where I couldn’t believe how well she was doing bringing a doll to life. Her movements are perfect, almost like dancing, and I can’t even imagine how long it took her to not only learn everything but also how long it took for her to break out of those habits once filming was over. The makeup department also did a great job with her look and again, there were moments where I had trouble believing she wasn’t actually a doll. There are also a few moments especially at the end that nearly made my jaw drop. There was definitely care and effort put toward making the M3GAN doll as good as possible, and everyone involved should be proud of how she turned out.
Keeping with the casting praise, I also enjoyed Allison Williams as Gemma and thought she did a great job throughout. She does a good job portraying Gemma’s struggles with suddenly becoming a new parent and connecting with Cady and I actually rather appreciated how the movie didn’t really have a Hallmark ending with them magically getting along and shows how both Gemma AND Cady have work to do as far as bonding and becoming a family. Violet McGraw also does a good job portraying Cady’s grief and hurt at losing her parents, and there’s a scene about halfway through where she confesses how much it hurts “waking up in a strange house every morning” and how it’s a constant reminder of her parents being gone. She’s also allowed a few moments of lashing out, which I also appreciated since it adds a bit of realism, and she’s able to portray that without necessarily going overboard, and that also extends into how quickly and how much she becomes attached to M3GAN after she comes to life. With all of that, the movie overall isn’t exactly a bad observation/commentary on child development and how that goes for some kids – I’m not saying this movie is THE authority on the subject, but there are a few moments of some decent insight in that regard.
I also noticed the movie is smart enough to not take itself SUPER seriously, but it’s also not a complete caricature/parody. A great balance is found, making the movie actually pretty enjoyable. However, the story itself unfortunately doesn’t offer anything TOO new to the genre – OF COURSE there’s corporate espionage involved, OF COURSE there’s a grumpy neighbor, and as has been covered MANY times before, there’s the question of the good/bad of technology use in modern society (WE GET IT ALREADY!) The scares are also rather predictable throughout and I could see them coming fairly easily. However, everything is still portrayed really well and it makes for a pretty solid film overall. Something else I appreciated was how there’s not really too much gore, which forces the viewers to use their imaginations to an extent in the scenes where M3GAN is shown (or I guess technically not shown) going rogue. The movie’s pacing is also pretty good and there’s not really any lingering on any one specific aspect or another – there were a few things I would have maybe liked to see a deeper dive into, but overall, the pacing for “M3GAN” works.
Overall, I felt “M3GAN” was a pretty solid film and I would give it a “B” grade. There’s so much creativity behind a lot of the film’s aspects, and the cast was chosen very well, particularly Amie Donald as the titular doll. However, I wish there would have been a little more originality as far as the story went, as all the tropes used have been used many, MANY times before. If you’re a fan of horror films, there’s a chance you’ll like “M3GAN.”