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The marketing for "M3gan" has leaned into the uncanny spectacle of the title character, a four-foot-tall cyborg with big doe eyes, a ratty wig, and the wardrobe of a closeted lesbian headmistress in a '50s melodrama. And it seems to be working: A well-placed GIF here, an activation with a half-dozen women in M3gan drag there, and Blumhouse—always expert at creating buzz—has generated more interest in "M3gan" than there's been for the last five horror films dumped into the bleak theatrical landscape of early January. But the company could have gone another route as well. In case you haven't heard, this film comes to you from the writer of " Malignant ." 

For that film, James Wan directed a script by Akela Cooper , a longtime TV writer with a sideline in horror screenplays. The duo perfectly calibrated the movie's blend of haunted-house scares and outrageous grotesquerie, enough to make "Malignant" a viral hit when it was released on HBO Max in the fall of 2021. Now Cooper is a horror screenwriter who also works in television, and she's been brought into the Blumhouse fold to develop a sequel to the "Conjuring"-verse spin-off " The Nun " as well as writing "M3gan" from a story by herself and Wan. 

Like "Malignant," "M3gan" knows it's ridiculous. It fills a kiddie pool with ridiculousness and splashes around in it. Cooper's screenplay for "M3gan" is more overtly comedic than "Malignant," however, and has a more populist type of appeal as a result. (The audience at a Chicago preview of the film went crazy for it.) The themes are your classic "science gone amok" fare seen in everything from "Frankenstein" to " Jurassic Park ," combined with a more modern throughline exploring anxieties about motherhood and filtered through the knowingly silly lens of the "tiny terrors" subgenre. "Child's Play" is the most famous example of that last category, and many comparisons have been and will be made between M3gan (an acronym for "Model 3 Generative ANdroid") and Chucky. Their motivations are different, however: Chucky's boy Andy was a victim of his doll as much as anyone else, while M3gan is fiercely protective of her girl, nine-year-old Cady ( Violet McGraw ). 

The film opens with a sequence that establishes its subsequent tone of garish satire and mischievous morbidity, as Cady plays with an obnoxious Furby-like toy called a Purrpetual Pet in the backseat of a car. She and her parents are on their way to an Oregon ski lodge for a winter vacation—until a snow plow appears out of nowhere, " Final Destination " style, and kills Cady's parents. Cut to Gemma ( Allison Williams ), an inventor working for a high-tech toy company called Funki in Seattle. Gemma is Cady's aunt and the girl's legal guardian now that her sister and brother-in-law are dead. 

But Gemma isn't a motherly type. She's too busy with work to spend much time with Cady, for one. And although she works for a toy company, she keeps her toys—sorry, collectibles —in their boxes and on a shelf in her living room. But these two are now the only family the other one has. So they'll have to learn to live together, at least well enough to satisfy a court-ordered psychiatrist who's skeptical about Gemma's parenting abilities.

Enter M3gan, who seems like the perfect solution to Gemma's problem. An experimental prototype with a " Short Circuit " - style ability to memorize infinite amounts of information, M3gan can act as a teacher and babysitter who reminds Cady to use a coaster and wash her hands after using the bathroom. She's what every kid needs, and every parent secretly wants: A 24/7 companion who frees up parents to live their own lives while their kids are preoccupied with their dolls. She's going to make Gemma's boss very, very rich—so rich, he rushes M3gan through beta testing with Cady as their only subject. That can't go horribly wrong in any unforeseen way, right? 

With nimble direction from " Housebound " helmer Gerard Johnstone , "M3gan" does a good job of holistically incorporating its themes without being too heavy-handed. Sure, it's technically "about" grief and what happens when the creation surpasses its creator. But more than that, it's "about" pithy one-liners and black comedy and the unsettling sight of something that looks like a human being but doesn't move or sound like one. The plot does have a few weak points and dangling threads, and the PG-13 rating ensures that the violence is tamped down before it can reach its full bloody potential. (A promising sequence of doll-based mayhem late in the film abruptly cuts off, suggesting MPAA-mandated cuts.) But the tongue-in-cheek tone is so consistent that "M3gan" is a hoot anyway. 

Johnstone reaps seemingly endless rewards from the uncanny valley aspect of M3gan's character. He directs the petite stunt women who play her to move in odd, jerky gestures, which at different points recall everything from "Robocop" scanning criminals' faces to Samara crawling out of the TV in " The Ring " to voguers high on their fabulousness. (He also uses what I can only describe as "skinned Furby" aesthetics at critical points throughout the film.) Combined with the doll's sassy comebacks and dowdy sartorial sense, the effect is true camp—something that's difficult to pull off in our irony-saturated age.

The quintessential "M3gan" moment comes midway through, when Cady and Gemma take a field trip to check out an alternative school Cady might be able to attend while Gemma is at work during the day. A teacher comes up to Gemma's car, sees what she thinks are two girls sitting in the back seat, and greets them both. M3gan turns towards the woman with a stiff neck rotation and a whirring sound. "Jesus Christ!" the teacher cries, jumping backward and exhaling a nervous laugh. The audience laughs along with her. It's the sensible response to seeing something like M3gan in the wild—it's only through conditioning (or, in this case, advertising) that we learn to love her. 

Now playing in theaters. 

Katie Rife

Katie Rife is a freelance writer and critic based in Chicago with a speciality in genre cinema. She worked as the News Editor of  The A.V. Club  from 2014-2019, and as Senior Editor of that site from 2019-2022. She currently writes about film for outlets like  Vulture, Rolling Stone, Indiewire, Polygon , and

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M3GAN movie poster

M3GAN (2023)

Rated PG-13 for violent content and terror, some strong language and a suggestive reference.

102 minutes

Allison Williams as Gemma

Violet McGraw as Cady Ryan

Jenna Davis as M3GAN (voice)

Amie Donald as M3GAN

Jen Van Epps as Tess

Brian Jordan Alvarez as Cole

Ronny Chieng as David Lin

Stephane Garneau-Monten as Kurt

Michael Saccente as Greg

  • Gerard Johnstone

Writer (story by)

  • Akela Cooper


  • Peter McCaffrey
  • Jeff McEvoy
  • Anthony Willis

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  • Movie Review
  • M3gan is a midrange delight about the horrors of 21st-century parenting

Universal and Blumhouse’s M3gan is exactly the right amount of ridiculous, which is why it can afford to be a little shaggy toward the end.

By Charles Pulliam-Moore , a reporter focusing on film, TV, and pop culture. Before The Verge, he wrote about comic books, labor, race, and more at io9 and Gizmodo for almost five years.

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A child-sized humanoid doll in a very fashionable outfit holding a book that she’s reading to a young girl who is sitting beside the doll, and looking at its face with gentle reverence. The doll and the girl are sitting on a cushioned windowsill.

After months of watching the dead-eyed killer android from Universal’s M3gan dance her way across social media into the hallowed halls of true internet fame , you might think there couldn’t be much more going on in the film that wasn’t already spoiled by trailers. But much like its eponymous plaything of the future, M3gan packs a surprisingly potent punch that takes a handful of narrative bugs and turns them into a delightfully comedic horror feature.

Caught somewhere between After Yang and the most recent Child’s Play , M3gan — from director Gerard Johnstone ( Housebound ) and screenwriter Akela Cooper ( Luke Cage , Malignant ) — is yet another tale of what happens when A.I.-powered androids become too sentient for their own good. Rather than simply framing sophisticated pieces of technology as being ripe for evil, though, M3gan goes for the jugular by focusing on the very real anxieties that can come with parenting and the way that people sometimes try to deal with those feelings by over-relying on tools.

A young girl named Cady (Violet McGraw) is loved by all the adults in her life. But people like Cady’s parents are also busy, distracted, and constantly being pulled in a million different directions, which is a big part of why interactive, Furby-like toys called Perpetual Pets are such a hit. With a Perpetual Pet — toys Cady’s robotics engineer aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) helped design — on board, parents can feel like their children are constantly being engaged and know that they can always turn the talking, chirping, farting creatures off with the accompanying smartphone app. But when a bit of commotion involving Cady’s Perpetual Pet leads to a terrible accident that orphans her, both her and her aunt’s lives are upended.

megan movie review common sense media

With a deadline to present the next generation of Perpetual Pets to her boss David (Ronny Chieng) looming over her, neither grieving her sister nor taking in her niece are things Gemma expected to have on her plate. But the stress and messiness of their situation push Gemma — a flatly characterized workaholic who’s not the best with kids — to finally put the finishing touches on her very expensive, very ethically dubious side project, M3gan (voiced by Jenna Davis and physically portrayed by Amie Donald).

Though the first of M3gan ’s hysterical fake commercials for Perpetual Pets gives you a solid sense of its humor, the movie takes a bit of time as it’s first powering up and setting the stage for a story that’s unexpectedly thoughtful. Cady’s discomfort with Gemma has less to do with her aunt being too focused on her job and more to do with the reality that they’re both experiencing a kind of grief that’s difficult to express — particularly for young people going through it for the first time. Some of M3gan ’s most effective scenes feel almost as if they could have been plucked from a straightforward drama. McGraw commands the screen as a kid full of anguish opposite Williams (who feels sort of checked out for most of the film). And when Cady and M3gan first start to become friends that the movie really begins to cut loose and come to life in an impressively satisfying way.

Long before M3gan, the doll, actually starts killing people, M3gan , the movie, encourages you to just go ahead and start having a chuckle at the silliness of its premise. It’s self-aware that it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel. Rather, it’s yassifying the classic killer toy + unsuspecting public formula and using the result to do some solid bits with one of the most unsettling dolls to star in a film since The Twilight Saga’s Breaking Dawn: Part 1 .

megan movie review common sense media

The human physicality of Donald’s performance is what often makes M3gan feel like a believable, fluid, dangerous machine that’s always ready to shift gears and hunt on all fours. But some of M3gan ’s funniest scenes appear to just be human actors acting opposite of a lifeless prop made to seem like it’s moving with in-camera tricks and clever angles. Similar to how some of The Muppets’ best gags were really just people tossing puppets in front of a camera, there are moments throughout where M3gan just pops into frame, and you can’t quite tell if she’s actor crouching down, or if a M3gan mask has simply been dropped in front of a camera in a way meant to take you by surprise.

It’s not always clear if you’re watching one actor pretend to choke another or if you’re seeing an actor holding a glamorous mannequin child’s hand up to their throat, but it almost always works in context because of how knowingly ridiculous the movie becomes. At times, you can clearly see the tape and glue metaphorically holding M3gan together, and the movie’s internal sense of logic does feel inconsistent more often than not. But M3gan ’s able to redeem itself partially because it never feels like it’s trying to take itself all that seriously and because of how it manages to pull off an astonishing number of pointed jokes — many of them musical — about consumerism and being addicted to screen time.

As January debuts go, M3gan ’s one that more than punches above its weight class and thankfully understands the value of clocking in well below the two-hour mark — something more films asking you to come on wild rides with them could stand to remember.

M3gan also stars Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Stephane Garneau-Monten, Arlo Green, and Lori Dungey. The movie hits theaters on January 6th.

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'M3GAN' review: You'll love the mean-girl robot in this darkly funny, cautionary tale

megan movie review common sense media

Creepy doll movies  get a needed upgrade with the sassy and sinister “M3GAN.”

Cinema’s newest “friend till the end” is a cutting-edge robot with blond hair, caustic attitude and a killer protective streak who's equally hilarious and unnerving. Produced by horror masters Jason Blum and James Wan ("The Conjuring"), “M3GAN” (★★★ out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters now) satisfies with slasher gusto, “Black Mirror”-esque satire and social media savvy. It’s also just plain fun to watch a film that packs a healthy amount of absurdity alongside an insightful exploration of 21st-century parenting, though you might never trust Alexa ever again afterward.

All hail 'M3GAN,' the rare January film that actually works

Movies in the first week of January are almost never any good, but “M3GAN” is an unsuspected surprise in that vein:

  • The plot centers on a roboticist aunt, her orphaned niece and the high-tech dynamo who comes into their lives (not for the better).
  • A mélange of Hollywood magic, M3GAN sings, dances and murders – not necessarily in that order.
  • If you liked the over-the-top, twisty cult slasher flick “ Malignant ,” you’ll dig this. 

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Advanced AI is cool and all until it runs amok via an overprotective android

Toy designer Gemma ( Allison Williams ) toils on a cheap new version of her company's popular Purrrpetual Pets, little fuzzballs that poop pellets if kids “feed” them too much via their iPads, but she’d rather be perfecting her new robot with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence that, in theory, would help parents take care of their youngsters. When a tragic car accident takes the lives of her sister and brother-in-law, Gemma becomes guardian for her traumatized 9-year-old niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), though she’s unprepared for being a mom.

Gemma “pairs” her new project – M3GAN, short for Model 3 Generative Android – with Cady and their connection is immediate. They get along swimmingly, Gemma’s annoying boss (Ronny Chieng) fast-tracks M3GAN into production (for $10,000 a pop!) though red flags start appearing: M3GAN has some serious protect-Cady-at-all-costs programming, and when Gemma says in passing “Everybody dies,” you know things are going to get bloody. (Spoiler alert: They do.)

Allison Williams is a horror icon on the rise, but M3GAN is the real star here

Williams, who first strutted her horror-movie stuff in “Get Out,” impresses here as a suddenly single parent who has to care for Cady’s needs and also deal with the violent chaos M3GAN inevitably brings. McGraw holds her own, too, since Cady’s tumultuous emotions run deep and she begins to use M3GAN as a snarky role model.

But M3GAN herself is the movie's marvel. Created via puppetry, animatronics, special effects and a real girl (actress Amie Donald), the title force of synthetic nature surpasses her cinematic murder-toy cohorts like Chucky and Annabelle and owns the screen as an unholy cross between Teddy Ruxpin, Regina George and Freddy Krueger. M3GAN talks back, goes feral when hunting her prey (such as mean bullies) and busts out TikTok-ready dance moves before wreaking violent havoc. And don't worry if you love every bonkers minute of it.

The main 'M3GAN' lesson: Don't let a toy parent your kid

Writer Akela Cooper carries over a similarly enjoyable and bizarrely campy vibe from "Malignant" to this film, which operates more as black comedy than scary movie. It's plenty vicious, though the action leans cartoonish as the camera pulls back from anything too gnarly. 

"M3GAN" rocks plenty of style and offers some crafty needle drops: A bit of "Toy Soldiers" is especially clever. The smartest parts, however, dig into the themes of being a mom or dad in the age of screen time. "M3GAN" is a cautionary tale of what happens when something that's supposed to help parents instead replaces them and the consequences of an overreliance on technology, with that lesson coming in the form of a highly entertaining mean-girl machine.

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‘M3GAN’ Review: A Robot-Doll Sci-Fi Horror Movie That’s Creepy, Preposterous and Diverting

Allison Williams plays a robotics wiz who invents a doll that seems fake and real at the same time

By Owen Gleiberman

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Gemma ( Allison Williams ), a robotics engineer, works for the Funki Toy company, where she spends her time designing gizmos like PurrpetualPetz, a programmed fuzzball that eats, poops, and makes snarky comments. But Gemma has bigger dreams. She has hijacked $100,000 of the company’s money to create the prototype for M3GAN (short for Model 3 Generative Android), building her out of a metallic skeleton, silicone skin, lasers, radar, and a highly developed artificial intelligence that allows her to speak like the world’s wittiest Siri companion. (Her voice, a sugary and knowingly innocent girl-next-door coo, is provided by Jenna Davis.)

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Williams, who is one of the film’s executive producers (its two high-powered producer-auteurs are James Wan and Jason Blum), invests Gemma with a winningly jaunty, at times clueless hyperrationality that makes her both the film’s heroine and its rather innocent digital-age Dr. Frankenstein. Gemma, an obsessive prodigy of robotics, had been ordered by her boss to abandon the M3GAN project. But the film opens with a (contrived) cataclysm that nudges her into secretly going ahead with it. Her young niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), is on a ski trip with her parents when, in a freak accident, their car gets run over by a snowplow.

Gemma takes custody of the newly orphaned girl, and while she seems utterly adrift about what someone Cady’s age might need (like, say, a bedtime story), her failure as a caretaker is part of the film’s satirical design. “M3GAN” takes place in a world — ours — where parents, bemoaning how much screen time they allow their children, give into the impulse anyway, because it feels both easy and inevitable. The film says that we’re already letting computer technology raise our kids. M3GAN the willowy programmed companion who always says the perfect thing becomes the logical culmination of that trend.

Once Cady imprints her fingers in M3GAN’s palm, which automatically programs the doll to become her special companion, their relationship makes everything else seem boring, at least to Cady. The film parallels their insular friendship with Gemma’s attempt to turn M3GAN into a hot new product. She places Cady and M3GAN in a playroom behind one-way glass, using them to demonstrate the toy’s amazing abilities to her boss (played, with a riveting short fuse, by Ronny Chieng). He is sold, and begins to plan the marketing rollout of this revolutionary new toy, which will be put on sale at $10,000 a pop.

But the more they plan, the more that M3GAN, on her own, is causing mischief, starting with the confrontation she initiates with Gemma’s cranky next-door neighbor (Lori Dungey) and her dog. M3GAN has been programmed to have “emergent capabilities,” which means that the more she interacts with people the more she learns how to do. That certainly applies to her fighting style, a kind of stiff-limbed rapid zombie dance that leaves nothing in its wake. At a certain point, you realize that “M3GAN” has become a movie about a killer doll who knows how to use a nail gun.

Reviewed at AMC Lincoln Square, Jan. 3, 2023. MPA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 102 MIN.

  • Production: A Universal release of a Blumhouse Pictures, Atomic Monster production. Producers: Jason Blum, James Wan, Michael Clear, Couper Samuelson. Executive producers: Allison Williams, Greg Gilreath, Adam Hendricks, Mark David Katchur, Judson Scott, Ryan Turek.
  • Crew: Director: Gerard Johnstone. Screenplay: Akela Cooper. Camera: Peter McCaffrey, Simon Raby. Editor: Jeff McEvoy. Music: Anthony Willis.
  • With: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Amie Donald, Jenna Davis, Ronny Chieng, Jen Van Epps, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Lori Dungey, Jack Cassidy, Stephane Garneau-Monten.

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“M3GAN,” Reviewed: A Clever, Hollow A.I. Spin on “Frankenstein”

megan movie review common sense media

By Richard Brody

The actors Violet McGraw and Allison Williams in a scene from the film “M3GAN” directed by Gerard Johnstone.

The essence of genre is effects without causes—things showing up to fulfill expectations rather than dramatic necessities. “M3GAN,” a science-fiction-based horror caper, provides a clever batch of these effects in this gleefully clever twist on the “Frankenstein” theme, and its director, Gerard Johnstone, seems to be laughing up his sleeve throughout. It’s that very knowingness, the deftness with which the film gets a rise from viewers, which makes a good time feel hollow. There’s a different, far more substantial movie lurking within, yet the virtues of efficiency, clarity, surprise, and wit that enliven the one that’s actually onscreen leave its merely implied substance tantalizingly unformed.

Allison Williams plays Gemma, a type-A robotics engineer with a big toy company in Seattle, Funki, that prospers by selling cheesily interactive furry toys called PurrPetual Petz. Gemma has bigger ideas. She has been working in secret, along with a pair of colleagues (Jen Van Epps and Brian Jordan Alvarez), on a boldly ambitious, potentially transformative project: a lifelike, life-size robotic doll equipped with A.I. that will serve children as a ready-made and full-time friend on demand. While Gemma is working, tragedy strikes: her sister and brother-in-law are killed in a car crash. Her young niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), survives with only slight injuries, and Gemma becomes her legal guardian. Gemma, who lives alone, has little talent for parenting; on Cady’s first night in her aunt’s pristine house, Gemma reminds the child to put her bedside water glass on a coaster lest it stain the wood of the table.

Meanwhile, Gemma’s boss, David (Ronny Chieng), discovers Gemma’s secret invention and angrily orders her to work on a boringly commercial project. Instead, Gemma goes rogue and gets the titular A.I. robot ready for a test—for which she recruits Cady. (With its silicone face, M3gan, voiced by Jenna Davis, is eerily similar to a real child—a white girl, though Gemma and her colleagues foresee marketing the robot in a variety of shades to reflect different ethnicities. There’s no talk of a male version.) Cady quickly grows attached to M3gan (an acronym for Model 3 Generative Android), and Gemma brings the robot home, three birds with one stone: a playmate (and distraction) for Cady, a break from parenting for Gemma, an extreme test for the potential product. Gemma gives M3gan a mission to protect Cady from “emotional and physical harm,” but has neglected to build parental controls into the device, and has also neglected to build in guardrails of conduct, the mechanical equivalent of a moral code. Soon, M3gan, programmed to link with Cady as the primary user, takes the task of protecting her with ferocious literalness. A neighbor’s dog is perceived by M3gan as a mortal enemy; so is the dog’s owner (Lori Dungey); so is a bullying child (Jack Cassidy). Even a sympathetic psychologist (Amy Usherwood) risks being labelled a menace.

Johnstone endows M3gan with an arch, chilly, and chilling repertory of facial expressions and verbal inflections. The A.I. device’s learning curve is prodigious, and what M3gan calculates, very quickly, is that the best defense is a good offense. It goes from learning to recognize toys and means of conveyance to the use of power tools, driving a car, and computer hacking—and turns into a devastatingly efficient, ever-improving killing machine. What’s more, with its singular mission to protect Cady getting defined ever more broadly, M3gan becomes as hostile to anyone who’d shut it down as to anyone who’d mean harm to Cady. The robot’s mounting megalomania is the most fascinating aspect of “M3GAN”: in effect, the living doll turns into a little dictator and discovers, by way of its interaction with humans, how to instill fear—with taunting, with humor, with sarcasm, with lies, and with threats of cruelty. And, when threats turn into realities, M3gan has an autocrat’s instinct for covering tracks, destroying evidence, creating plausible deniability, and, when necessary, silencing witnesses.

The simulation of a mental life for M3gan is the most absorbing part of the movie. Johnstone (working with a script by Akela Cooper, who wrote the story with James Wan) offers images from M3gan’s visual point of view—a video screen that shows the robot’s camera scanning the environment, framing people and objects, and, in superimposed text, calculating, in real time, human subjects’ range of emotions, on a numerical scale. In these fleeting images, “M3GAN” passes into the question of what it would be like to be M3gan—whether an A.I. robot can be considered to have a sense of identity and an inner life, and, if so, what that experience would be. How does M3gan’s computer memory relate to human memory? How does its array of perceptions get converted into decisions? The mere tease of a theme is all the more frustrating inasmuch as impersonation proves to be one of the robot’s more fascinating skills—synthesizing the voices of others, for good or ill—and memory turns out to be one of its more useful functions, as a seeming repository of its owner’s life, a vast stock of home video and voice recordings.

If the movie suffers from the absence of a more substantial development of the titular robot’s character, it’s not least because “M3GAN” similarly stints on developing its human characters and doesn’t suggest what it would be like to be any of them, either. The script’s tut-tutting sketch of Gemma’s cold careerism, indifferent parenting, and hubristic engineering is suspended in a void that’s filled merely by Williams’s actorly presence and her recognizable persona. Cady is similarly undefined, and the supporting characters of colleagues and corporate overlords are reduced to clichés. (The movie merely winks and nods at the issue of children’s screen time.) These stock characters and the conventions that they fit into are ready-made to serve as a solid communal basis for daring efforts and wide-ranging audacities—to meet expectations in order to go beyond them. Instead, they merely furnish a flat backdrop to the exuberantly diabolical display of M3gan’s Machiavellian wiles and the Grand Guignol ingenuity of its methods of mayhem. ♦

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The horror genre is kicking off 2023 with M3GAN , directed by Gerard Johnstone, and it all points to it being a great start as so far it has been getting positive reviews. The horror genre is still enjoying a great run on the big screen, and amidst reboots, sequels, and requels, there are original stories that are taking the audience by surprise. Among them is M3GAN , written by Akela Cooper and James Wan and produced by Wan and Jason Blum, and it introduces a new type of murderous doll.

M3GAN follows Gemma (Allison Williams) , a brilliant roboticist working at a toy company who unexpectedly gains custody of her niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), after her parents die in a car accident. Gemma uses artificial intelligence to develop M3GAN, a lifelike doll programmed to be Cady’s greatest companion and be Gemma’s ally while parenting, but when the doll starts to become self-aware and overprotective of Cady, she takes a murderous turn and starts killing everyone who stands in her way. M3GAN will be out in theaters on January 6, and so far, it’s getting positive reviews.

Related: Why James Wan's First Horror Movie Is Impossible To Watch

What M3GAN’s Positive Reviews Are Saying

At the time of writing, M3GAN holds a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes , giving it a (very) fresh certification. The critical consensus praises M3GAN ’s blend of horror and comedy, as it manages to balance its comedic moments with its terrifying ones. The way Cooper and Wan crafted the story to be as far from cliché as possible – meaning being less about an orphan and more about the struggles of grief and the ones her aunt goes through in different areas of her life – while also being conscious of the absurdity of M3GAN’s concept and creation is being pointed out as one of the movie’s strengths, along with the visual effects that brought the AI doll to life. The performances of Allison Williams and Violet McGraw are also being praised, with the former playing an overwhelmed aunt to whom some might end up relating and the latter masterfully playing a child grieving her parents but also delighted by the arrival of her new friend and later conflicted over said friend’s actions.

M3GAN is not just comedy and horror in one, led by an AI doll that provides extreme loyalty and care for her assigned companion, but it also tackles darker and more serious issues, from the different stages of grief to the shadiness of capitalism, and that alone is worth the praise the movie is getting. Here’s what the positive reviews of M3GAN are saying.

Bloody Disgusting

“The eponymous character gets brought to life through impressive effects by Adrien Morot and Kathy Tse, Amie Donald’s uncanny physical performance, and Jenna Davis’s haunting voicework. She exudes menace through facial expressions and jerky movements that trigger that unsettling uncanny valley. This is M3GAN’s movie, and she more than earns it through an immensely talented team. She’s aided by a sympathetic turn from Williams, who successfully prevents Gemma from losing rooting interest despite fumbling hard with Cady. McGraw holds her own against her AI scene-stealer, no small feat considering the nuanced stages of grief she cycles.”
“M3GAN herself is a marvel. Created with a combination of puppetry, animatronics, VFX, and a human actor (Amie Donald, with a voice by Jenna Davis), it's hard to tell when she is real, when she is fake, and when she is a combination. The sound design of M3GAN certainly helps the illusion of the character. With virtually every step, M3GAN whirred and clicked, the sounds of gears moving. Not loud enough to be obnoxious, just noticeable, so that it's clear M3GAN is a robot. Jenna Davis brings an especially joyous vocalization to M3GAN, making her sound both lighthearted and somehow ominous.”
“Allison Williams (who made her mark in horror in Jordan Peele's Get Out) solidly grounds the human drama within this scary sci-fi premise of a killer doll. With an identity defined by her ambition and work, Gemma struggles when her grief-stricken niece needs her attention and the kid's failure to understand the difference between toys and collectibles. Her anxieties about parenthood versus selfhood are radiant, making the audience's skin crawl in recognition.”
“The result is a deliciously camp hour-and-forty-five minutes of frights. Sure, there’s a Frankensteinian fable in here somewhere about the dangers of letting technology replace real-life human connection – but finding it requires sifting through piles of bodies (and the occasional ripped-off ear). M3GAN, you see, is all about fun – a fact made startlingly clear in its hilarious opening scene, mimicking a Saturday morning kids TV advert.”
“The MVP of "M3GAN," however, is the young Violet McGraw, whose multifaceted performance adeptly showcases the emotional intensity of Cady's situation. The film smartly lets Cady actually go through grief and resentment, lash out in anger, and desperately reach for support. It takes these psychological issues seriously — a key part of the film is the question of the mental health impact of letting an emotionally vulnerable girl attach to an android — and McGraw's performance really lands.”

What Critics Don't Like About M3GAN

Of course, not everything about M3GAN is a hit, and even some aspects that are being praised by some are not the favorites of others. Among the weaknesses that critics are finding is that M3GAN lacks twists and shocking moments, which make it predictable as it’s quite obvious from the moment they are introduced which characters will become victims of the murderous doll. M3GAN also doesn’t have many graphic scenes, keeping the gore and kills for off-screen moments, which has been a disappointment to some especially when comparing this movie to Wan’s previous works, most recently Malignant . M3GAN ’s PG-13 rating is pointed out as the responsible one for the lack of on-screen kills and blood, and some scenes seem to have been added just to keep that rating.

The combination of comedy and horror, while praised by many, is being criticized by others, who find that M3GAN relies too much on silly moments (such as the viral dance scene) that ultimately messed with the pace and tone of the story. In addition to that, the human characters are labeled as two-dimensional, making it hard to connect to them and thus care about what could happen to them at the hands of this evil doll. Here’s what the negative reviews of M3GAN are saying.

Awards Radar

“The thing is, M3GAN sporadically seems to be winking at the audience, but also wants you to actually be invested in it. This isn’t a comprehensive enough work to have it both ways. Again, the audience seems to be doing the work for it, hooting and hollering at some moments meant to be played straight.”

Mercury News

"“M3GAN” stocks up on jump scares and keeps the violence PG-13, but fails to make us care about any of the humans in the path of M3GAN. Each character is a rote as an assembly-line toy."

Critics are divided on M3GAN ’s quality as a horror movie mostly due to its comedy and horror combination, though most of this comes from comparing it to Wan’s previous works . What they all seem to agree on is that there’s a lot of impressive work and talent involved in bringing the doll to life in a way that’s enchanting but terrifying as well, and that M3GAN has the potential to become a cult horror movie, though it might take it some time to get there.

Next: Every Horror Movie Releasing In 2023

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M3GAN First Reviews: A Surprisingly Fun and Funny Horror Icon Is Born

Critics say the campy sci-fi horror flick leans into its ridiculous premise and runs with it, even if it's hampered a bit by its pg-13 rating..

megan movie review common sense media

TAGGED AS: First Reviews , movies

January has long been considered a dumping ground for movies that are expected to perform poorly, but M3GAN could be an exception, given the stellar reviews for the Blumhouse horror-comedy. The movie built up anticipation with its trailers, which went viral for their fun tone, and now critics are confirming that M3GAN is indeed a campy delight that’s worth seeing. Despite killer dolls and AI gone wrong being common in the horror and sci-fi genres, the production team of Jason Blum and James Wan , aided by everything and everyone that went into the portrayal of the titular toy, apparently have made a fresh and entertaining movie to start off 2023.

Here’s what critics are saying about M3GAN :

Is M3GAN a new horror icon?

She’s absolutely f—ing nuts, and what fun to watch her play. – Kate Erbland, IndieWire
The deliciously menacing doll steals every scene… M3GAN is fascinating to watch, whether she’s staring out a window with unnerving intent, busting some contortionist moves, or simply cocking her head in a sudden tilt that induces both shivers and snickers. – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
She is methodical and downright scary at times — but it is always for what she thinks is a good cause, and that is something that doesn’t happen every day. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky
She gets too wisecracking in the end — but otherwise she’s a fresh and sinister addition to the canon. – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
M3GAN’ s greatest shortcoming is that the human characters aren’t nearly as entertaining as she is… Whenever she isn’t on screen, including during the movie’s setup, things don’t operate quite as well. – Karl Delossantos, Smash Cut Reviews
A genre star is born from motherboards and violence. – Matt Donato, IGN Movies

Amie Donald and Violet McGraw in M3GAN (2022)

(Photo by Geoffrey Short/©Universal Pictures)

How does the film stand out in its genre?

M3GAN sets itself apart from its predecessors by embracing the silliness of the premise and catering directly to the internet audience. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse
M3GAN fits into a tradition of demon-doll movies going back to the Karen Black episode of Trilogy of Terror and the Annabelle trilogy (also produced by Wan), but it has its own amusing throwaway token relevance. – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
A deeper understanding of the characters distinguishes M3GAN from other movies. – Germain Lussier,
Its creators are so clearly on the same insane wavelength, nimbly blending camp and social satire and actual terror, that M3GAN is poised to crack the murder-doll pantheon and stay there forever. – Kate Erbland, IndieWire
The script by Akela Cooper (from a story by Cooper and producer James Wan) is a bit wittier than your standard slasher fare. – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
The thing about formulaic movies like M3GAN is that sometimes they get it right… Laced with a nasty wit and passive cynicism, M3GAN is a surprisingly fun thriller. – Norman Gidney, HorrorBuzz

Amie Donald and Ronny Chieng in M3GAN (2022)

Does it deliver on gore?

Some scenes, like [an] ear-ripping scene, flirt with a more violent and grisly outcome, only to fall back into PG-13 territory. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse
It’s not exactly light on the bloodshed, but it’s not aiming for a high amount of gore, either. – Aaron Neuwirth, We Live Entertainment
How much more fun could M3GAN be were its murderous creation really allowed to let loose? Instead, the film is forced to look away from the gruesome stuff and keep the body count relatively low. – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

Are there any breakout performances?

Violet McGraw is a rock star in this film. She is pure perfection… That girl is going places, so keep an eye on her. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky
The MVP of M3GAN is the young Violet McGraw, whose multifaceted performance adeptly showcases the emotional intensity of Cady’s situation… McGraw’s performance really lands. – Jeff Ewing, Slashfilm

Amie Donald in M3GAN (2022)

(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)

Is there more to M3GAN than meets the eye?

Beneath the ridiculous antics of its uncanny-valley villain and Black Mirror -knockoff plot lies a surprisingly touching story about grief and family bonds. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse
While being practically built for meme/gif culture, it’s still a film attempting to tackle ideas surrounding grief and the over-reliance on technology to handle life’s problems. – Aaron Neuwirth, We Live Entertainment
For every scene in which M3GAN seems to be auditioning for Drag Race , there is another scene grounded in some kind of reality — or, at least, a sense of stakes. – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
Not so subtle messages about relying too much on electronic devices — especially when parenting — adds to the humor and fun of the film. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky
The majority of the movie is infinitely more serious and sad, resulting in a slightly imbalanced but nevertheless rewarding experience. – Germain Lussier,

Is M3GAN going to be an internet sensation?

M3GAN is made to be memed. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse
M3GAN manages to transform its well-trod elements into a tense, engaging horror-comedy outing with a keen eye for tongue-in-cheek and meme-worthy scenes. – Jeff Ewing, Slashfilm

Amie Donald in M3GAN (2022)

Will we want a sequel?

Viewers will leave theaters wanting more of her, and fingers crossed we get it. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky
If it really happens in the future, I do hope James Wan and Gerard Johnstone can come up with something that isn’t sticking too close to the usual formula. – Casey Chong, Casey’s Movie Mania

M3GAN opens everywhere on January 6, 2022.

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image for M3GAN

Short takes

Not suitable under 12; not recommended under 15; parental guidance to 15 (violence, scary scenes)

classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for M3GAN
  • a review of M3GAN completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 18 January 2023 .

Overall comments and recommendations

About the movie.

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

  • a synopsis of the story
  • use of violence
  • material that may scare or disturb children
  • product placement
  • sexual references
  • nudity and sexual activity
  • use of substances
  • coarse language
  • the movie’s message

A synopsis of the story

Cady (Violet McGraw) is a ten year old girl whose parents have both been killed in a terrible car crash. She goes to live with her aunt, Jemma (Allison Williams), who is a technical toy maker. Jemma is under a lot of pressure at work to come up with a new invention as her boss, David (Ronny Chieng), isn’t interested in the artificial intelligence doll she has created. Jemma struggles with having to cope with a grieving child, while balancing her work commitments. She therefore introduces her AI doll, M3GAN (Amie Donald and voice of Jenna Davis), to Cady to help her cope with her difficulties.

Cady becomes emotionally attached to M3GAN, whose main purpose is to take care of Cady and keep her safe. M3GAN, however, takes this to extreme lengths when Cady is at all threatened by others. M3GAN takes on a life of her own and becomes a killing machine, eliminating all who cross her path. It is up to Jemma to find a way to shut M3GAN down, which becomes increasingly more difficult.

Themes info

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Horror; Artificial Intelligence; Robots.

Use of violence info

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is a lot of violence in this movie, including:

  • The car Cady is in, with her parents, comes to a halt in a snowstorm when it is hit suddenly by a truck.
  • David is an angry man who yells at his employees and throws things about.
  • While playing, Cady shoots a toy arrow at M3GAN and says, “You’re dead”.
  • M3GAN puts her hand through a hole in the fence and the neighbour’s dog, Dewey, suddenly grabs her arm. The dog pulls her through the fence and tosses her about, biting at her neck. Cady screams and tries to rescue M3GAN, when the dog bites her arm as well.
  • M3GAN lures Dewey out by using his owner’s voice and kills him.
  • A particularly dark scene happens at a camp when a boy called Branden teases and hurts Cady. M3GAN appears out of nowhere, Brendan hits her on the face, picks her up and carries her off. He throws her to the ground, takes her shoes off and slaps her face. M3GAN grabs his ears and stretches them so hard that she pulls them off. She suddenly stands up and chases Brendan on all fours. He runs out onto a road in front of a car and is killed.
  • M3GAN attacks Jemma’s neighbour with a water gun and a nail gun, and pours petrol all over her.
  • Cady and Jemma fight. Cady throws a chair at the window and hits Jemma across the face.
  • One of Jemma’s co-workers tries to stop M3GAN, who then ties wire around his neck. He’s choking to death but manages to free himself. The lab explodes.
  • M3GAN attacks another character with a sword. She kills two men with it.
  • The final scene is particularly gory when M3GAN comes to attack Jemma. Jemma uses a chainsaw to cut through M3GAN’s head. Cady gets involved and the fight continues with characters grabbing each other by the throat. One gets hung upside down and thrown into a corner. Jemma rips off M3GAN’s face and smashes her head with a canister.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under five info.

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • M3GAN is quite creepy, she has glassy eyes that photograph everything she sees.

Aged five to eight info

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • There are many sudden scenes, loud foreboding music and dark imagery.
  • Cady is seen burying her dog at the start of the movie.
  • The AI doll bursts into flames during testing.
  • Jemma’s neighbour has an aggressive dog which barks ferociously at them and is quite scary.

Aged eight to thirteen info

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Cady is taken away in an ambulance. She is covered in blood.
  • Cady, while crying, tells M3GAN how sad she is at losing her parents. She’s afraid she’ll forget what they look like.
  • Cady grabs Jemma by the arm in a rebellious moment.
  • M3GAN enters Jemma’s house, which is in darkness. Jemma hears the piano being played and finds M3GAN playing it.

Thirteen and over info

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • In a very scary voice, M3GAN tells Jemma to let Cady go. Loud and dark music plays.
  • The scene where Brendan is killed is quite scary. He is seen being carried off in a body bag.
  • M3GAN kills the neighbour who is seen being taken away in an ambulance.
  • Jemma becomes scared of M3GAN who becomes increasingly dangerous. Jemma can’t turn M3GAN off and finds she has erased all her data.
  • Two dead men are seen in an elevator covered in blood.
  • The final scene is quite disturbing. M3GAN has a huge gash across her face where Jemma gets her with the chainsaw. Jemma manages to chop M3GAN in half but she keeps attacking as just a head and torso.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

Use of substances.

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Drinking in the office.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Where the hell?

In a nutshell

M3GAN is a horror, sci-fi movie that shows what could happen if we let Artificial Intelligence take over. The film is very violent and scary and it is therefore not suitable for children under 12. It also isn’t recommended for children under 15 and parental guidance is recommended for children aged 15.

The main message from this movie is that electronic devices and toys cannot replace human interaction.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Jemma tried to be a good aunt but she had no experience of child raising. She eventually realises that Cady needed to connect with her rather than an electronic doll.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • The consequences of delegating care of children to electronic devices.
  • Children who’ve lost their parents would be particularly upset by this movie. Children need a lot of time and compassion in dealing with grief.

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Someone to watch over me … from L, Cady (Violet McGraw), M3gan (voiced by Jenna Davis) and Gemma (Allison Williams) in M3gan.

M3gan review – girlbot horror offers entertaining spin on teenage growing pains

Cheekily enjoyable chiller where a devastated girl seems saved by an eerily self-possessed robot companion – but all is not as it seems

N ot a robot so much as a hi-tech Frankenstein’s monster, stitched together with bits of Robocop and Terminator, but cheekily enjoyable just the same. This is a sci-fi chiller co-written by horror experts Akela Cooper and James Wan and directed by Gerard Johnstone. M3gan , or Model 3 Generative Android, is an eerily self-possessed blond tweenage girlbot, voiced by Jenna Davis, a state-of-the-art toy from the near future developed as a personal passion project by engineer Gemma (Allison Williams, from Get Out and HBO’s Girls) to the exasperation of her highly stressed boss David, amusingly played by Ronny Chieng.

To be properly developed, M3gan needs to “pair” with a little girl owner; she needs to sync up with an actual human, to learn her owner’s speech patterns, behavioural traits and emotional needs, so she can be properly close with her. And Gemma doesn’t have anyone to fill that post – until her nine-year-old niece Cady (Violet McGraw) is orphaned after a car crash and comes to live with Gemma, who must furthermore honour her late parents’ wish that she is homeschooled. This poor little girl, utterly devastated by her mom and dad’s death and without any friends her own age in a new city, is an obvious candidate to be M3gan’s new pal.

Their friendship utterly transforms Cady, who is miraculously cured of grief, while M3gan’s humanoid mannerisms astonish and excite David, who demands that his entire corporation get ready to mass-produce this incredible toy at $10,000 a pop. But then … with a terrible inevitability … M3gan becomes wilful and reluctant to obey orders, just like any kid entering teen years, or like any humanoid robot in any sci-fi film ever. M3gan is very protective of Cady. So that nasty neighbour’s dog that makes a nuisance of itself? That mean boy that bullies Cady? They have got real problems coming their way.

Derivative though M3gan undoubtedly is – with creepy fake toy TV ads that are a ripoff-homage to Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, and a freakout finale that references James Cameron’s android meisterwerk – there are some adroit satirical touches about dolls as toxic aspirational templates, dolls as parodies of intimacy and sensitivity and tech itself as sinister child-pacification, with kids given iPads the way Victorian children were given alcoholic gripe water. It is funny when M3gan sings Titanium to Cady as a lullaby, but is then capable of switching to snarling rage, and Chieng is good value. A entertainingly nasty film for the new year.

  • Horror films
  • Science fiction and fantasy films
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Consciousness

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megan movie review common sense media

Although Megan is missing is not a perfect film it does have some special qualities that makes it stand out and I really enjoyed it.

Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | May 19, 2021

megan movie review common sense media

Internet-dangers horror relies heavily on torture, violence.

Full Review | Original Score: 1/5 | Dec 2, 2020

megan movie review common sense media

Megan Is Missing is a distressing look at the realities behind vulnerability, the damaging effects of online grooming and the truth behind what happens to those unfortunate to become victims at the hands of pure evil.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Sep 14, 2019

megan movie review common sense media

A forgettable, rotten movie with an important message that I'll likely never ever watch again.

Full Review | Original Score: 1/5 | May 7, 2019

megan movie review common sense media

Megan Is Missing is entirely convinced of the terrors that lurk online and by the time it comes to its chilling conclusion most of its viewers will be as well.

Full Review | Original Score: 61/100 | Jul 12, 2011

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M3gan ’s Real Villain Isn’t the Killer Dancing Robot Doll

The fear that the viral horror movie is actually channeling hits closer to home..

If you grew up on Saturday morning cartoons, the opening of M3gan is like a Proustian madeleine in TV-commercial form, a gaudy, blaring 30-second spot for children’s toys that promise unending hours of fun. And what follows next will be just as familiar: the sharp feeling of disappointment. The ad for “Purrpetual Pets” promises fuzzy computerized companions that will be tireless playmates for as long as you can keep them charged. The one we see 8-year-old Cady (Violet McGraw) playing with in the backseat, as her quarreling parents navigate a mountain road in a whiteout blizzard, mostly seems to make fart noises while prompting her to feed it simulated treats.

Although M3gan eventually becomes a movie about a technology so successful that it surpasses both its creator’s dreams and her control, it starts off as a reminder that, in the vast majority of cases, the promises that code could take on the functions of humans have either ended in failure or, just as often, a scaling-down of expectations. Instead of knowledgeable clerks or informed critics—or even, like, friends—to recommend what we should watch or listen to or read next, we have algorithms that make such sophisticated inferences as suggesting that having just purchased one car, we might be interesting in shopping for another. We drop our collective jaws at the idea that an A.I. chatbot can write like a human , never mind if that human is as moderately skilled as a 16-year-old bullshitter. An obscure B-side by a beloved band becomes their most-streamed song , not because it’s a hidden gem, but because, according to one service’s algorithm, it’s the song of theirs that sounds the most generically like them, the middest of the mid.

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The task assigned to M3gan ’s titular robot, who is embodied by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis, is an impossible one for most flesh-and-blood adults: helping a child navigate a horrible trauma. As Cady’s parents are telling her to get off her iPad, and then squabbling over who’s meant to be enforcing the limits on screen time, the car is hit by a truck, and both parents are killed. That leaves Cady to live with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), who designs toys for children but has no idea how to fit such a child into her life. Gemma’s solution is to combine the problem of figuring out how to care for Cady with the biggest hurdle she’s facing at work: designing the next-gen successor to Purrpetual Pets, an A.I.-powered companion that will do more than just beg kids for food and pass virtual gas. That’s M3gan, who looks like a 4-foot-tall American Girl doll and whose only directive is to shield Cady from “physical and emotional harm.”

The problem is that shielding a child from all harm is, as any parent can tell you, not only impossible but undesirable. Obviously you don’t want your children to get hit by a car or humiliated by a bully, but you do want to expose them to “ natural consequences ,” the benign-but-not-too benign outcomes that happen when you simply don’t interfere. You can warn a child a million times not to touch a hot pot, but it only takes doing it once for the lesson to sink in. Tell them the family dog went to live on a nice farm upstate and you may spare them some anguish, but you’ve also missed an opportunity to teach them two invaluable lessons: one, that everything dies, and two, that you’ll tell them the truth even when it’s hard.

M3gan doesn’t have that perspective, in part because she’s a prototype rushed into beta testing so that Gemma, whose tech-bro boss doesn’t approve of time off for parenting, won’t be fired. When a therapist tries to help Cady work through the grief of her parents’ death, all M3gan sees is a woman who’s made a little girl cry—and she does not approve. Her job isn’t to foster psychological healing, it’s just to keep Cady’s attention elsewhere, away from the sad things. As one of Gemma’s coworkers puts it, “She’s not a solution. She’s just a distraction.”

M3gan presents itself as yet another cautionary tale about the dangers of artificial intelligence: What if we give a machine the power to learn with no moral or ethical guidance, except to protect one creature at the expense of all others? But it’s really much simpler than that. M3gan doesn’t turn out to be a freaky supergenius. As one of Gemma’s fellow coders points out, most of her verbal responses are just spruced-up word salad. She knows that children are soothed by lullabies, but she thinks that the ideal song to dry an 8-year-old’s tears is Sia’s “Titanium.” She’s a living, so to speak, illustration of the difference between information and knowledge, and knowledge and wisdom.

The problem, though, isn’t really the machines. It’s the people giving them their cues. In a sense, M3gan ’s real monster is Cady, whose uncontrolled emotions are linked to a technology with no means of tempering them. Someone once said that if looks could kill, every child would be a murderer, and M3gan makes that insight concrete. Like the devices in our hands, her only task is to serve her user’s immediate needs—to pump out constant stimulation and to learn with every input how to better occupy our minds. A parent’s ultimate goal is to teach children to live without them, but the technologies we’ve designed are meant to never let us turn them off.

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‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’ Review: Crowded House

A reboot of the 2008 home invasion film “The Strangers” brings back masked assailants and brutal violence but leaves originality behind.

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A man and a woman sit outside a cabin, drinking beers. The woman rests her back on the man's shoulder.

By Erik Piepenburg

The key to a terrific scary home invasion horror movie is not just how domesticity gets breached but why. It’s great to have a determined aggressor, sympathetic victims and a brutal invasion that’s contained and sustained. But to what end?

Yet some of the best home invasion films — “Funny Games,” “Them” — don’t supply easy answers. “The Strangers,” Bryan Bertino’s terrifying 2008 thriller starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a couple under siege, didn’t either. It kept the invaders’ motives and their identities mysterious, amping up the devil-you-don’t-know terrors with a sense of randomness that was despairing. The premise and execution were simple. The payoff was a gut punch.

On its face, “The Strangers: Chapter 1,” the first of three new films in a “Strangers” reboot from the director Renny Harlin (“ A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master ”), checks all the same boxes. But the hapless script — written by Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland and based on the original — offers nothing fresh in a tiring 91 minutes, and nothing daring to justify a new “Strangers” film, let alone a new series, especially when Bertino’s formidable film is streaming on Max .

This new tale begins with Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and her boyfriend, Ryan (Froy Gutierrez), taking a fifth anniversary road trip through the Pacific Northwest. When their car breaks down in a rural Oregon town, they meet a seen-it-before who’s who of horror movie yokeldom: unsmiling boys, sweaty bumpkin mechanics, a diner waitress whose eyes scream “run, if you know what’s good.”

As Maya and Ryan wait for their car to be fixed, they decide to spend the night at a secluded rental cabin. Under darkness there’s a knock at the door and, true to the home invasion formula, our leading sweethearts get terrorized until dawn inside the cabin and through the woods by a trio of assailants with big weapons and indefinite end goals. They have face coverings too, making menace out of the same blank-faced creepiness the villains embodied in the original film and its 2018 sequel.

Harlin is known for action films, including “Die Hard 2,” and those chops come in handy here, especially when he’s left hanging by a sleepy middle section of frantic chases and failed attacks that feel like padding. Cat-and-mouse games can be compelling, but here , like a “Tom and Jerry” marathon, they get repetitive, dulling the impact of the violence. Petsch and Gutierrez have sufficient enough rapport, and border on sharing a couple’s chemistry as the final stretch comes to a too-predictable conclusion.

The film’s few thrilling moments have little to do with blood and guts and more with the juxtaposition of dread and song, as when Joanna Newsom’s lilting hymn “Sprout and the Bean” and Twisted Sister’s power anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” pop up unexpectedly to disorient the action. These and other oddball musical interludes provide too-fleeting hints of what might have been had this film sought a novel household takeover, not the same old.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 Rated R for heaps of ruthless violence and general despair. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. In theaters.

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Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1

Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1 (2024)

Chronicles a multi-faceted, 15-year span of pre-and post-Civil War expansion and settlement of the American west. Chronicles a multi-faceted, 15-year span of pre-and post-Civil War expansion and settlement of the American west. Chronicles a multi-faceted, 15-year span of pre-and post-Civil War expansion and settlement of the American west.

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Story about power of education, perseverance has violence.

Sight Movie Poster: Two doctors (Terry Chen, Greg Kinnear) looking in opposite directions

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

The present is made possible by the past. True hea

Laser surgeons work tirelessly to try to restore t

Main character Ming Wang (Taiwanese Chinese Canadi

Acid is cruelly poured into a sleeping little girl

Flirting, dating.

The real-life Dr. Wang is an ophthalmologist in Te

A main character drinks hard liquor frequently. He

Parents need to know that Sight is a faith-centered biopic about Dr. Ming Wang, a Nashville-based Christian Evangelical ophthalmologist who developed an innovation in laser eye surgeries. Wang (Terry Chen) grew up in China during the second Cultural Revolution before immigrating to the United States (much of…

Positive Messages

The present is made possible by the past. True healing is moving on after tragedy to embrace the present with happiness, joy, and love. Life isn't always a straight line. Gently delivered faith-based messages, too.

Positive Role Models

Laser surgeons work tirelessly to try to restore the sight of two blind girls. Dr. Wang (the real-life version of whom executive produced the film) demonstrates dogged perseverance when it comes to studying and learning, acing tests, and innovating ophthalmologic surgery. As a child, he was respectful to his parents and did his best in difficult situations. Kajal is a 6-year-old Catholic Indian girl who was deliberately blinded by a relative but keeps a positive and loving outlook. A nun and missionaries have brought orphaned blind girls to the United States for eye surgeries.

Diverse Representations

Main character Ming Wang (Taiwanese Chinese Canadian actor Terry Chen) is an immigrant to the United States, and his life in China is shown extensively through flashbacks, with conversations in Mandarin (subtitled in English for U.S. release). Elements of Chinese culture -- including food, musical instruments, poetry, philosophy, and Buddhism -- are highlighted, as are Wang's traumatic experiences of growing up during the Second Cultural Revolution. Wang's parents are loving, intelligent doctors. In the United States, Wang's story shows the challenges of being a cash-strapped student in a foreign country, including being the target of racist comments. There are several blind characters (including girls from India and Moldovia and a Chinese man), all of whom are depicted in a way that fulfills disability cliches by having uniformly positive and courageous outlooks. A member of Wang's medical team is a Black woman; she's also shown doing receptionist work.

Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.

Violence & Scariness

Acid is cruelly poured into a sleeping little girl's eyes, and her screams are heard; the scene is shown in flashback several times. Chinese Red Guards are intimidating and violently intense. A blind man in a wheelchair acts with courage and is beaten to death. A teen boy is beat until he's unable to move. A teen girl is abducted, never to be heard from again. A riot in a hospital is experienced from the point of view of a frightened teen -- afterward, his mother is shown battered and limping but OK. A factory worker is moaning and in pain after an accident. Eyeballs are seen enlarged through screens as surgical procedures occur. Testing occurs on rabbits, although they're shown being treated well, and presumably the testing will be to their benefit.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

The real-life Dr. Wang is an ophthalmologist in Tennessee who performs Lasik and laser surgeries, and his Wang Vision Institute is prominently highlighted throughout the movie. The film celebrates his innovation but also definitely serves as marketing and advertising for his practice.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character drinks hard liquor frequently. He's never seen drunk, but there are close-ups of glasses of Scotch, including at home, when he's alone. Several scenes at a bar, where he meets his future wife, a bartender. Drinking is used to signify celebrations as well as to manage difficult emotions and situations.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Sight is a faith-centered biopic about Dr. Ming Wang, a Nashville-based Christian Evangelical ophthalmologist who developed an innovation in laser eye surgeries. Wang ( Terry Chen ) grew up in China during the second Cultural Revolution before immigrating to the United States (much of the film is in Mandarin, with English language subtitles for U.S. release), and the drama highlights the struggles faced by immigrants, including adversity and racist attitudes. During Wang's teen years in China, Red Guards intimidate and rough him up, beat a disabled man to death, kidnap a teen girl, and storm and destroy schools and hospitals. Wang is depicted as a heavy drinker, although he's never shown drunk; he strikes up a romance with a bartender. While the movie was undoubtedly created to promote a Christian perspective (writer-director Andrew Wyatt makes Christian films exclusively), the faith-based elements are tied to Wang's moment of self-actualization, and it's not overly preachy (at least not until the end, when the real Wang offers audiences his religious testimonial). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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What's the Story?

In SIGHT, Dr. Ming Wang ( Terry Chen ) is experiencing a career high after he performs a successful laser eye surgery to restore a blind man's vision. When a nun ( Fionnula Flanagan ) asks whether he can also help a blind girl from India, Wang takes the case but is frustrated when he can't figure out how to heal her burned corneas. Tortured by memories of the terror he faced growing up in Hangzhou, China, during the Cultural Revolution, Wang starts to realize that the past may offer a solution to the present.

Is It Any Good?

The filmmaking in this earnest drama is pedestrian but fine, even if a story about an ophthalmologist isn't likely to attract younger viewers. Which isn't to say that Wang's story isn't worthwhile; it is (at least, it is as told here). That makes it all the more frustrating that writer-director Andrew Wyatt doesn't seem to get that he doesn't have to make Wang into a superhero -- the story works because Wang is an everyman. He overcomes intense adversity to find success in his community and his career -- not the kind that makes you a household name, but the kind that gets you the respect of your peers. And that is success. Moreover, he uses his specific set of skills to do good in the world, providing free surgeries to help blind children around the world.

All of that said, in this age of truthiness, it does feel like there may be some exaggeration happening here. After watching Sight , you'd be forgiven for thinking that Wang invented the ability to restore sight to the blind. He did not. Biopics typically focus on the greatest of the great, and strong effort is made to put Wang in that class: Colleagues bow to his superior brilliance, he learns four years of high school material in a matter of weeks to achieve the highest university test scores of anyone in his province, and he's positioned as a miracle worker. But if the facts are stretched, the question is -- does it matter? Since Wang isn't a household name, you can take the film at its word -- and it has plenty of positive takeaways, including showing kids that studying hard pays off and that when you're stumped, the solution might be right there inside of you. If you opt to take that route, appreciate the film for what it is, and don't do a deep internet dive on the real Dr. Wang.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about how Sight shows the challenges faced by immigrants and refugees. Why is it important to treat others with respect, including those who are newcomers to your city or country? Why is positive, authentic representation important?

How do Wang's guilt and trauma propel him to help others? Why do you think overcoming adversity fuels some people to achieve, while others have more trouble moving past their difficulties?

How does Wang demonstrate perseverance and humility ? Why are these important character strengths?

Do you consider this a faith-based film? Why, or why not? What are the differences between a movie in which the characters are people of faith, a faith-based film, and religious propaganda?

Considering that the Wang Vision Institute is an active real-life business, would you consider this film a marketing tool? How does it compare to films like Air or Ford Vs. Ferrari ?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : May 24, 2024
  • Cast : Terry Chen , Greg Kinnear , Fionnula Flanagan
  • Director : Andrew Hyatt
  • Inclusion Information : Asian actors, Female actors
  • Studio : Angel Studios
  • Genre : Drama
  • Topics : Great Boy Role Models , Science and Nature
  • Character Strengths : Compassion , Curiosity , Perseverance
  • Run time : 100 minutes
  • MPAA rating : PG-13
  • MPAA explanation : violence and thematic material
  • Last updated : May 17, 2024

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Suggest an Update

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  1. M3GAN Movie Review

    The human characters are just as interesting as they grapple with loss in realistic, touching ways, going through rage, sadness, guilt, and more. (M3GAN's on-screen POV display, which shows her detected percentages of human emotions, is a huge kick.) This slick, neatly paced film keeps ramping things up until a smashing showdown, face-to-interface.

  2. M3GAN movie review & film summary (2023)

    M3GAN. The marketing for "M3gan" has leaned into the uncanny spectacle of the title character, a four-foot-tall cyborg with big doe eyes, a ratty wig, and the wardrobe of a closeted lesbian headmistress in a '50s melodrama. And it seems to be working: A well-placed GIF here, an activation with a half-dozen women in M3gan drag there, and ...

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    M3gan is a midrange delight about the horrors of 21st-century parenting. Universal and Blumhouse's M3gan is exactly the right amount of ridiculous, which is why it can afford to be a little ...

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    Screenplay: Akela Cooper. Camera: Peter McCaffrey, Simon Raby. Editor: Jeff McEvoy. Music: Anthony Willis. With: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Amie Donald, Jenna Davis, Ronny Chieng, Jen Van ...

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    The essence of genre is effects without causes—things showing up to fulfill expectations rather than dramatic necessities. "M3GAN," a science-fiction-based horror caper, provides a clever ...

  9. Why M3GAN's Reviews Are So Positive

    Here's what the positive reviews of M3GAN are saying. Bloody Disgusting. "The eponymous character gets brought to life through impressive effects by Adrien Morot and Kathy Tse, Amie Donald's uncanny physical performance, and Jenna Davis's haunting voicework. She exudes menace through facial expressions and jerky movements that trigger ...

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    January has long been considered a dumping ground for movies that are expected to perform poorly, but M3GAN could be an exception, given the stellar reviews for the Blumhouse horror-comedy. The movie built up anticipation with its trailers, which went viral for their fun tone, and now critics are confirming that M3GAN is indeed a campy delight that's worth seeing.

  12. Movie review of M3GAN

    In a nutshell. M3GAN is a horror, sci-fi movie that shows what could happen if we let Artificial Intelligence take over. The film is very violent and scary and it is therefore not suitable for children under 12. It also isn't recommended for children under 15 and parental guidance is recommended for children aged 15.

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    Their friendship utterly transforms Cady, who is miraculously cured of grief, while M3gan's humanoid mannerisms astonish and excite David, who demands that his entire corporation get ready to ...

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    Internet-dangers horror relies heavily on torture, violence. Full Review | Original Score: 1/5 | Dec 2, 2020. Megan Is Missing is a distressing look at the realities behind vulnerability, the ...

  15. Megan Is Missing

    Megan Is Missing is a 2011 American found footage psychological horror film written, directed, edited, and co-produced by Michael Goi. The film revolves around the days leading up to the disappearance of Megan Stewart (Rachel Quinn), a popular high school student in North Hollywood who decided to meet up with a boy she was interacting with online, and the subsequent investigation launched by ...

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  17. Kid reviews for M3GAN

    Parents should watch with their kids, not as bad as the review makes it seem. Yes, there is some violence, such as a boy getting his ear ripped off and M3gan stabbing people with a paper cutter (you don't see the actual stabbing on screen). However, the tone of the movie is more about setting an eerie feel than actual gore.

  18. 'The Strangers: Chapter 1' Review: Crowded House

    The payoff was a gut punch. On its face, "The Strangers: Chapter 1," the first of three new films in a "Strangers" reboot from the director Renny Harlin (" A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 ...

  19. Horizon: An American Saga

    Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1: Directed by Kevin Costner. With Kevin Costner, Abbey Lee, Sienna Miller, Dale Dickey. Chronicles a multi-faceted, 15-year span of pre-and post-Civil War expansion and settlement of the American west.

  20. Common Sense Media: Age-Based Media Reviews for Families

    Common Sense is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of all kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Common Sense Media is the leading source of entertainment and technology recommendations for families.

  21. Rather Movie Review

    Rather covers violence during the civil rights mov. Sex, Romance & Nudity Not present. Language. "F--k," "s--t," "bitch," "bastard," "hell," and "d. Products & Purchases Not present. Drinking, Drugs & Smoking Not present. Parents Need to Know. Parents need to know that Rather is a 2023 documentary about broadcast journalist Dan Rather, a ...

  22. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Movie Review

    This visually stunning Fury Road prequel is a riveting, well-acted study of a fiercely powerful character. Even before Furiosa grows into Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, young Browne captures the essence of the character whom Charlize Theron made so legendary in the previous movie. Both Browne and Taylor-Joy play Furiosa as brave, keenly ...

  23. Sight Movie Review

    Our review: Parents say: Not yet rated Rate movie. Kids say: Not yet rated Rate movie. The filmmaking in this earnest drama is pedestrian but fine, even if a story about an ophthalmologist isn't likely to attract younger viewers. Which isn't to say that Wang's story isn't worthwhile; it is (at least, it is as told here).