James’s review published on Letterboxd:
A fun enough killer doll movie with some stale satire.
The film follows an engineer at a toy company who has to take her niece in after her sister is killed in a traffic accident. To try to help the young girl, she is given the prototype of a new AI doll who is instructed t protect her at all costs.
I'm not going to lie to you guys, I really did not expect to like this. A January horror movie that was edited down from an R rating to PG-13 just because it blew up on tik tok, yeah, my expectation were low, but it managed to exceed them. For starters, I liked the cast here. I don't think I have seen Allison Williams in anything of note since Get Out, but she proves herself to be a capable leading lady here. Her arc of growing to accept her new responsibilities, while cliché, works pretty well. I've also got to give credit to the child actresses that play Cady and M3GAN, as they do pretty stellar work as well. The voice actress for M3GAN does some particularly great work, especially in the latter half when she gets to become more unhinged while the on set actress does some great things with her body language, really selling that she is a robot.
I also think director Gerard Johnstone did some pretty solid work behind the camera as well. While I struggle to really call this movie "scary" (nothing ever scares me nowadays), he does a solid job building tension in a few key scenes that really do a good job building up M3GAN as a real threat, even if there is an overreliance on jump scares overall. I do think Johnstone draws out the opening far too much (M3GAN doesn't really start to go off until like an hour in), he kind of lets the tone vary from scene to scene and I do wish he had fought to keep the R rating, as some of the kills were neutered in the process of being edited down (the power washer kill could have been fantastic), but for a director with only one other movie to his name, he did pretty well.
Still, I just found the whole satiric angle this movie tries to play up as a bit meh. I get it, parents nowadays try to put parenting onto technology, give their kids too much screen time, too much access to the internet, etc. but this movie doesn't have a whole lot else to say. It's happy to damn near constantly point out its messaging, even in the final confrontation. Also, a lot of the humor from this just never landed with me. I really think I laughed more at stuff that wasn't meant to be funny (when M3GAN started singing Titanium after Cady asked if she had killed someone had me in stitches), which doesn't bode well for a horror movie.
In the end, I expected much worse, so consider me pleasantly surprised. Should Blum and Wan decide to do another I would probably check it out, I just hope they get the tone and humor right.