“Why are we doing this?”
Story: Poor little Cady. She just lost her parents in a horrible car crash, and now she’s got to live with her self-absorbed aunt Gemma. Meanwhile, Gemma, who is Much Too Busy to deal with her new charge – “She’s not my daughter!” – decides to re-commission the android/robot doll she’d been working on at the toy company she works for. The latest in tech…with absolutely zero stopgaps or emergency protocols. Because who’s got time for that? Just throw that electronic babysitter at Cady and get back to real life, right? What’s the worst that can happen? cues up creepy music
Genre I’d put it in: Probaby Intentionally Hilarious Horrors
Release Date: 2023 (limited 2022)
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Lots of vibes from earlier films, but original nonetheless
Gotta say: Okay y’all. We’ve all seen that clip. Director Gerard Johnstone knew what he was doing when M3GAN‘s teaser trailer included it. He was setting the scene, letting everyone know that this was gonna be silly fun, rather than balls-out horror. And while I laughed my way through a good deal of this film – enjoying every one of those moments – this film should have really gone for peak hilarity, rather than trying to bob and weave between serious and comedic. A for effort, I guess?
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy myself with M3. I did. But I hate that it “had its moments”, rather than being something I can wholeheartedly recommend. And that hesitation comes from James Wan’s story, which tries to shoehorn A Deep Message into the shenanigans, all the while keeping things strictly PG-13. For this film to truly work, it should have gone, to paraphrase Tropic Thunder, full M3GAN. Let that doll run riot, and have the themes and messages take a back seat. Because as it is, this film’s incessant need to get the messages that “thou shalt give a shit, actually” across only serves to hamstring the hilarity.
Example? Gemma. This character is absolutely insufferable for 85% of the film. Allison Williams does a great job of portraying a woman who’s much too obsessed with her job to give a damn about anything else in the world. Workplace rules, robotics protocols (stick a pin in that), family, even her busted fence that allows the neighbor’s attack-oriented dog to run all over her yard? Meh. They should all get the necessary attention, but unless a problem is shoved into Gemma’s face, causing Gemma herself to be inconvenienced? She ignores them all. Though the necessary come-to-humanity character shift does occur seconds before the climax, I didn’t care if Gemma lived or died, outside of having poor Cady bereft again.
The horror is mostly jump scares, as M3‘s main focus is to get everyone laughing. I think Wan clocked that Malignant wasn’t exactly the hilarious Giallo send-up he thought he’d made, so the comedy is much more obvious here. Akela Cooper’s screenplay ties together the various scenes of carnage and “drama” in a way that flows well, but even still, I couldn’t help but feel pulled back and forth by the extremes in tone. M3 is either uproariously funny, or solemn. A lighter touch would have done wonders to even out the feel of the overall story, and would have made for a better film.
But are we wanting a good film when we watch horror comedies that spoof themselves? Or do we just want to sit in our seats, waiting for the next moment of bloody merriment to hit the screen? I for one would love both, but I’m a greedy bitch. That, and the mayhem here is offscreen most of the time, with dribbles of the red stuff off to the side of the frame, so you know someone actually bled. If this had been an R-rated joint, it would have been a whole lot more fun; see Malignant‘s hilarious police station dance. With films like Malignant and M3GAN, it’s safe to say Wan has a killer comedy in him…and perhaps one day he’ll let himself off-leash and really go for it.