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M3GAN, just an unimaginative Child’s Play 2.0

Back in 1988, Chucky’s debut in the original Child’s Play movie made an impact for three reasons. Despite the idea of a “killer doll” run amok was nothing new as 1978’s Magic, 1986’s Dolls or even the Zuni doll segment in the classic Trilogy of Terror from 1975 proved, Chucky came into his own due to Brad Dourif’s voice work, Tom Holland’s creative direction and FX crew headlined by Kevin Yagher’s Chucky design.

It also helped tremendously that My Buddy dolls were all the rage among kids at the time which brought the terror home to many unsuspecting parents and households.

Child’s Play has been so successful as a franchise because the minds behind it, notably Don Mancini, have continually pushed the limits of that genre. Gerard Johnstone’s M3GAN does not of that. Despite being written James Wan it doesn’t present anything that you haven’t seen before and done a hell of a lot done better in the Child’s Play franchise or other films.

Eleven-year-old Violet McGraw is eight-year-old Cady, a young girl who is orphaned at the start of our story when her parents are killed in a car accident. Cady is sent to live with her aunt, Allison Williams as Gemma, a roboticist at a toy company.

Gemma and Cady are two of the most irritating characters in quite some time. McGraw is misused here as Cady. Instead of being endearing and sympathetic she is often bratty and prone to cringy outbursts and tantrums. Gemma, is absolutely clueless about how to care for Cady, because apparently all single women are clueless about how to care for young children. She’s just smarmy, grumpy, defensive and just entirely unlikable. She is about as pleasantly delightful as a Nile crocodile or a fire ant.

Under the gun to produce something for her boss, Gemma kills two birds with one stone by introducing Cady to her latest project: M3GAN. M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android) is a fully programmable, interactive companion for children. If M3GAN was meant to be something children would be comfortable with you would think Gemma would have fashioned an android that doesn’t look like a creepy, younger version of a Stepford Wife.

That’s really all the character of M3GAN has going for it though. She doesn’t come off as scary or frightening like Chucky can be despite the fact that he is just a kid’s toy. Also, the FX are clumsy and awkward especially when portrayed in various scenes by child actor Amie Donald, who often doesn’t move like an android or robot would. Unlike Chucky, M3GAN doesn’t look like something that would exist in the real world but something made up entirely for a movie. Jenna Davis’s voice acting is suitably robotic but comes off sounding and talking like a viperish CW character right out of Gossip Girl or Riverdale. That really also detracts from the overall believability.

Cady (Violet McGraw), M3GAN and Gemma (Allison Williams) in M3GAN. Courtesy: Universal Pictures.

As you might guess, M3GAN becomes self-aware and grows close to Cady wanting to protect her from any kind of threat or danger. That includes the pesky and nosey next door neighbor and her delinquent mutt who attacks Cady. M3GAN becomes uncontrollable and eventually Gemma, the Dr. Frankenstein of this film, must confront her creation in a climatic battle during which Cady has to side either with her new motorized companion or her flesh and blood aunt.

M3GAN isn’t helped by the fact that it is rated PG-13 so the body count is very, very low and so too is the blood-letting. The kills are all tame and except for the hanging of another roboticist, they are not shocking or very unimaginative at all. This is a horror movie tweens might find creepy but anyone who has moved past the Goosebumps stage of their lives will find M3GAN doesn’t have any claws or fangs to speak of. It just isn’t chilling or horrifying.

M3GAN is Blumhouse’s feeble attempt at launching a Child’s Play franchise of their own but like so many of their releases M3GAN just plays out as another recycled, pre-owned idea that Blumhouse is trying to pass off as something new or different when it is anything but. If nothing else, M3GAN confirms that Blumhouse is in desperate need of some kind of renovation as it has become pretty decrepit, creaky and rickety as a production company.

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