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Movie review: 'M3gan' is fun, dark start to 2023

When most movie fans think of an evil doll, their minds might turn to "Child's Play," but there's a new high-tech offering now in the form of "M3gan."

PORTLAND, Maine — [Editorial note: This article is critical analysis of a film and doesn't represent the views of NEWS CENTER Maine, but the author.] 

When most movie fans think of an evil doll, their minds might turn to "Child's Play," but there's a new high-tech offering now in the form of "M3gan."

The science fiction/horror mashup is the first cinematic offering for 2023, and it doesn't disappoint. It's as funny as it is dark but not so horrific that it exceeds its PG-13 rating. 

At play in the film are themes and commentary on technology addiction, especially among children, as well as mental health and processing grief.

The Story 

"M3gan" follows a young girl named Cady (Violet McGraw) who loses her parents at the beginning of the movie and moves in with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams). 

Gemma works as a designer for a toy company called Funki and is in the middle of developing the next breakthrough in high-tech playthings. 

Caught between a deadline and trying to care for her grieving niece, Gemma creates a four-foot doll that can talk and learn simply by bonding with Cady over time. The doll's name? M3gan. 

At first, things seem to go great with M3gan, who is played by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis. She cheers Cady up, and they become best friends almost instantly. M3gan can sing to her, read stories, dance with her, and the two form an immediate and inseparable bond. 

This leads to challenging questions about the role of parents and just how inseparable children should be from their toys. While Gemma is, at first, enthusiastic about the toy's development and her company's reception to M3gan, others point out some problematic elements. 

Despite being a technological breakthrough, if a toy does things to bond with a child in place of a parent, and the child recognizes that toy as a primary caregiver, how will the kid ever develop and grow up themselves?

Things don't take long to start spiraling as M3gan learns to take control of her functions and advances her primary task of protecting Cady to a frightening degree. Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" sure would have come in handy.

The doll soon proves capable of killing those it perceives to be a threat to Cady, and Gemma is left trying to grapple with this electronic monster she helped create that her niece is so attached to. 


The effects work in "M3gan" is amazing. She looks and sounds like a computerized doll and comes with enough sass to make her violence entertaining and, for at least half of the movie, appear justified. 

For a film on a $12 million budget, Director Gerard Johnstone managed to craft a scary story that looks and sounds great. And compared to the usual slew of January releases, this will end up standing out as a strong offering. "M3gan" may even end up being the best-selling movie of the month, as its marketing seems to have taken on a viral trend since the trailer's release. 

McGraw and Williams both give strong performances. But it's McGraw's range that shows the actual horror of this movie. It's through her eyes and acting that the true consequences of this technological advancement are seen and felt. 

As for the violence, "M3gan" might be a little tamer than some horror enthusiasts hope. It certainly doesn't push the bounds of its PG-13 rating. But the movie still finds plenty of laughs and edge to offer to its audience for an efficient runtime of one hour and 42 minutes. That also means a teen audience can enjoy the movie without being too scared. 

The jump scares are minimal, and the gore is limited. For a horror flick, "M3gan" is remarkably user-friendly without compromising on what it has to offer. The true dread of this movie comes in the form of realizing the ethical questions this film asks about rapidly-developing technology are relevant not in 2040 or 2030, but right now in 2023. 

It's an enjoyable way to start the new year for those ready to see what's playing at their local theater. 

Also playing this week

Of course, "M3gan" isn't the only movie coming to theaters this week. Nicholas Cage also stars in a western called "The Old Way."

To see which movies are playing at a theater near you, click here

For more movie thoughts, follow Courtney on Twitter, here

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