Friday, January 6, 2023

Shopworn idea given amusing spin


Movies with even a modicum of ambition tend to score big in January, not normally a time when new releases boast much of a "wow" factor. M3GAN is such an entertainment, a movie about a doll brought to frightening life (or at least a synthetic version of it) by AI and engineering genius. M3GAN, pronounced Megan but really an acronym for Model 3 Generative Android, becomes the best friend of young Cady (Violet McGraw), a girl who's living with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) after her parents are killed in a car crash. Gemma, M3GAN's inventor, hopes the "toy" will help restore the spirits of the grieving Cady. Gemma knows toys but has no idea about kids, an irony that gives the movie a hint of social relevance. Over relying on M3GAN to act as a parent, Gemma sets up the inevitable transformation that will convert doll to killer, often in the name of protecting Cady. Gemma also hopes that her invention will sweep the toy world, as does her money-grubbing boss (Ronny Chieng). Director Gerard Johnstone's visual approach isn't much different than an after-school-special but the movie boasts smatterings of mordant wit. Credit  M3GAN's capacity to deliver snide remarks with exaggerated sincerity. A bit of PG-13 gore and some routine genre violence (a nail gun becomes a weapon) unfold as expected. But Amie Donald's performances as M3GAN  (voice by Jenna Davis) allows the movie to punctuate its more generic components with some welcome amusement.

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