a white mother and daughter sitting on a bed, with an unsettling young girl AI doll/robot in the background
Courtesy Geoffrey Short / Universal Pictures

Few trailers from the past year have inspired as much anticipation in me as M3GAN’s did. Finally, I thought, a movie that answers the question on all our minds: what if Chucky was a girl boss? Imagined and written by the screenwriter and producer of Malignant, Akela Cooper and James Wan, respectively, it’s hard not to wonder if they’ve let the instant midnight movie canonization of their last collaboration go to their heads. Whereas Malignant was something genuinely weird and audacious that earned its word-of-mouth reputation, there’s nothing organic about the way M3GAN is precision engineered to achieve cult classic status, from the wink-nudge hamminess of supporting actors Ronny Chieng and Lori Dungey to the broad jokes with a 50/50 hit rate. And yet, in spite of its obvious shortcomings, when that little lady finally started going postal, I found myself struggling not to start hooting and hollering in the theater. The movie fully lives up to the promise of its ridiculous trailer whenever our star is indulging her hard-PG-13 homicidal instincts or performing vaguely threatening TikTok dances toward her enemies. This won’t pop up on any top ten lists by the end of the year, but for a genre film released in a month typically reserved as a dumping ground for studios, this is all you could hope for. I wouldn’t say no to two or three sequels (MEG4N? Or maybe a James Cameron Aliens route with M3GANS?) that take this premise to even greater extremes. What if we sent M3GAN to space? What would it look like if she took Manhattan? PG-13, 102 min.

Wide release in theaters