M3GAN, the doll (Model Three Generative Android), was built in a lab to be the best friend a little girl could ask for. She can play, she can sing, she can remind you to flush the toilet. M3GAN, the movie, was built in a lab to be seen in a theater. It’s funny, it’s under two hours, and much like its star Allison Williams, it’s just self-aware enough to bring you into the joke without being too cheeky about it. This is all to say, M3GAN is the perfect movie to see if you’re burnt out on emotionally heavy, overlong Oscar fare.
Williams plays Gemma, a toy designer who becomes her niece Cady’s guardian following the untimely death of Cady’s parents. Despite having a career based around what kids might like, Gemma does not know how to interact with an actual child. She is not prepared for parental duties, let alone to a child who just lost both parents in a traumatizing accident. Luckily, Gemma has been working on M3GAN, an AI-powered robot designed to become exactly what any child needs.
M3GAN works by “pairing” with a child, and she becomes more powerful the more time she spends with a child. In order to convince her boss that M3GAN could be the next big thing, Gemma brings her home to spend time with Cady. The two become unhealthily attached to one another, and M3GAN — like many evil robots and evil dolls before her — takes it upon herself to take out anyone who stands in between her and Cady.
Whatever else happens in this movie doesn't really matter. The plot is incidental to the rest of the movie, which is an exercise in seeing how many funny things you can make a robot child do. The list is endless. She can dress like the daughter of a long-serving Republican senator (the double meaning of “slay” seems to have been the entire impetus for the script), she can do a little TikTok dance, she can sing Sia’s “Titanium” as a lullabye, she can run on all fours through the woods, she can give impeccable side eye. She can murder, but when she does so it isn’t gratuitous or gory. If anything, M3GAN (and M3GAN) could stand to be more violent, but that would preclude it from a PG-13 rating that’s guaranteed to bring in gaggles of teenagers ready to make memes using images of M3GAN’s half-scalped head — “Me after the APUSH exam,” “Me after two hours in the Taylor Swift pit,” things of that nature.
M3GAN is probably not going to be the movie of the year, but it sets the bar high for enjoyable theater experiences. If you’re going to see it, don’t wait. Go see it in a theater where they serve alcohol and allow yourself to turn off your critical faculties for 100 minutes. Hoot, holler, and cackle with a bunch of strangers when M3GAN does a no-hands cartwheel and then rips the blade off of an industrial paper cutter to use as a weapon. You will not leave this movie any smarter than you came into it (it’s probable that you might actually be dumber), but you will have had fun in a movie theater. Who else is doing that these days?