Is it tougher or easier to be a parent in the modern age? Well, if Funki has its way, it’ll be as easy as pushing a button. That’s the toy-making company behind MΞGAN – a state-of-the-art, self-aware, AI-imbued super doll, capable of not only befriending their pint-sized partners but also providing a resource for information for the young children they’re instructed to bond with. It’s the internet personified, and in so doing, MΞGAN is more than just a friend – she’s practically a parental figure. So what could possibly go wrong? MΞGAN, of course, is Hollywood’s meme-fied darling of the month, a TikTok-influencing treasure trove of viral hip thrusts and brutal put-downs. The title character in question (portrayed by Amie Donald and Jenna Davis) is an eerie-looking creature resembling a plastic Instagram influencer who was kidnapped and transformed into an android.

It’s an impressive bit of practical movie magic, as MΞGAN appears fake yet incredibly lifelike, including those piercing eyes. Her creator is Gemma (Allison Williams), Funki’s incredibly ambitious engineer. The initial impetus for this technological endeavor is for Funki to get a leg up on their competitors, eventually leading to a whole line of MΞGAN dolls, each of different ethnicities. But rest assured, the white one will be first! However, Gemma’s motives eventually evolve from career advancement and become a lot more personal – she just became a surrogate mother to her niece, Cady (Violet “It’s a Twin Thing!” McGraw), and needs MΞGAN to bond with the troubled child. Literally revolutionizing artificial intelligence for years to come because you can’t find the time to hang out with your niece is certainly a choice that is indicative of our need to rely on technology to fill in the gaps for natural human relationships.

It’s that key theme that distinguishes this manufactured oddity from other notable horror dolls. The usual suspects of comparison are the manic and psychotic Chucky or that lazy bum Annabelle. However, those aforementioned names rely on deception, their unassuming nature intended to have their hosts let their guard down. MΞGAN is different in her pursuits – she’s sincere, curious, and genuinely wants to help. Her bond with Cady seems authentic, if ill-fated. It’s noteworthy that MΞGAN has such a blank expression, in direct contrast to McGraw’s adept handling of facial cues to give off whatever emotion is necessary. She’s already mastered what child actors have long figured out: look disappointed in the adults around you for as long as possible… when you finally show an emotion that isn’t outright disdain, it’ll feel real.

Cady’s interactions with her aunt Gemma are filled with nothing but disappointment, as the latter put a damper (ironic, given her profession) on the fun that comes with childhood. “Don’t touch those, they’re collector’s items!” The adult woman says to her newfound daughter. But when MΞGAN takes centerstage, that’s when Cady’s face lights up. MΞGAN relates to her, talks to her on equal footing, but most importantly, stands up for her. That last part leads the movie down a dark path while separating the titular character thematically from the likes of Chucky. In Child’s Play, Chucky just needs to say some weird spell so he can be human again. So, his adversaries are whoever gets in the way of that. The relationship with the kid is just a hilarious pantomime where an adult serial killer must pretend to be a toddler’s best friend. In MΞGAN, the relationship with the kid is the motivation for the violence.

MΞGAN’s objective is to protect Cady, and Cady weirdly has a lot of enemies for a pre-teen. These foes range from a perverted bully to a ratchet neighbor who can’t seem to stop her maniac of a dog from harassing the terrified citizens on Gemma’s block. The shitty dog owner is the real villain of this movie if you ask me, but the focus is on MΞGAN’s inability to tell right from wrong. In a lot of ways, she’s like Ultron – an AI designed to solve problems, yet they lack the empathy and understanding to tackle life’s biggest hurdles. It’s a simple, basic plot that you’ve seen many times before – the well-meaning artificial intelligence that is driven to homicide by its mere devotion to its objectives. Add in familiar themes of technological paranoia, Frankenstein’s monster, that Jeff Goldblum speech from Jurassic Park, etc., etc. ETC!

What makes MΞGAN stand out isn’t its plot but the movie’s unique idiosyncrasies and how the material is always handled with a smirk, mixed with occasional moments of brilliance and some bewildering choices. I went into this movie 50% certain to find it was the most elaborate SNL skit of all time. The film certainly didn’t discourage that expectation, with running gags like how various law enforcement can’t help but crack a joke after the most grisly murders as if Horatio Cane is about to put sunglasses on. One cop apprehends a neighbor at Gemma’s window, asking her, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Which is precisely the cavalier humor I demand from these movies. Later, Cady tells a story of her birth mother finding a cockroach in the young girl’s lunch bag, prompting momma to RUN OUT OF THE HOUSE. It’s a roach, mom, not a Saber-tooth Tiger. There’s a point in this movie where the instrumental for the 1980s R&B hit, Let It Whip, plays over a montage… for no fucking reason. It doesn’t fit, one iota, with anything going on in the scene or the movie’s tone. I half expected Stevie Wonder’s I Wish to drop in the next scene while Gemma filed taxes or something.

The movie vacillates between goofiness and genuine craftsmanship. There’s an immaculate shot of MΞGAN sitting amongst a group of traditional toys, perfectly encapsulating her bizarre existence. So much has been made about that dance, but the creature’s most surprising bit of performance art is standing from a prone position, like a cyborg Michael Myers. There’s a wonderful scene early on involving watercolors that truly feels like a believable moment of warmth. It’s established, via POV shots, how MΞGAN scans various humans and determines their emotions and tendencies. Later, when an antagonist threatens MΞGAN and Cady, we don’t get the POV shot; we just see MΞGAN, but we know she’s scanning – a great moment. Previously mentioned and confusing song choices are forgiven when the soundtrack drops Basil Kirchin’s Silicon Chip at the most appropriate time. You realize it took this long for the movie to fully understand itself. But then something totally comedic and meme-able will happen out of the blue, such as MΞGAN breaking out into a song like she’s Vanessa Hudgens. Or that dance – they never even try to explain why she does it. It’s just the dance from the trailer.

Despite all of the silliness, this movie does have a story, and it’s about two things. First, it’s a warning not to become dependent on technology. The things we buy often fill a void in our being, but that’s not the same as healing. The human characters in this movie suffer from tragedy and do an awful lot to avoid actually talking about it. Second, the film is about a young woman choosing between her adopted daughter (Cady) and her birth daughter (MΞGAN). I think you know what choice she’ll ultimately make. MΞGAN has the athleticism and flexibility of a gymnast while being able to solve advanced calculus. Cady can’t remember to flush the toilet. I know who my money’s on. But there is a moment, relatively early, where Gemma makes a choice that seems small but speaks volumes. She betrays all of her self-serving rules in an effort to keep her daughter around, sacrificing commerce for her family. That’s love money can’t buy.