Sonic the Hedgehog is the latest attempt to adapt a video game franchise into a film and while the record of videogame adaptations has been less than stellar this is decent, although sometimes annoyingly dialed up to extreme. The road trip between the exasperated human and the literal blue ball of energy is sturdy, the action sequences have cool moments, and hammy Jim Carrey almost singlehandedly makes it entertaining by going old school Carrey bonkers in every scene.
Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is a hedgehog from another planet who has incredible speed powers. He has decided to lay low among humans until a police officer Tom (James Marsden) catches Sonic in his shed, which attracts the attention of a black ops military man, Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey), who unleashes a horde of evil drones to catch the mischievous blue streak. Now Tom and Sonic have to go on a road trip across the country so Sonic can find his golden rings and leave Earth for a safer place, but he’s enjoying meeting his first real friend in Tom he may not want to leave.
When the first trailer for Sonic hit, people were straight up horrified at the design. And rightly so, he looked too human, like Sonic had stumbled out of the movie Cats, and had a mouth full of off–putting big teeth. Fans took to social media to express their ire and the filmmakers said it would be changed. The new design looks a lot better, even if it stands out more as a pure CGI cartoon character it looks like the original Sonic. While this may be a bad sign that Twitter ire can change a creative direction, it was for the better because the original design was flat out awful.
The vocal performance by Schwartz is energetic with constant stream of consciousness babbling, some jokes he makes are lame but other ones are good like when Robotnik’s drones shoot up Tom’s house and Sonic quips “This seems excessive.” The script does the work to make Sonic sympathetic, like a good scene where he plays a baseball game all by himself, realizes he’s alone and does an explosive speed run in frustration. Although it is a little weird that Sonic is defined as an alien being who comes to Earth, since he’s just been an anthropomorphic hedgehog in the games. What’s even weirder is Sonic’s origin story has him living with a talking owl called Longclaw, something that never popped up in the Sonic canon before this. Even worse, Sonic’s mother figure of Longclaw gets shot up with arrows by baddies as Sonic runs away screaming which is an odd bummer to kick the flick off on.
Carrey is in his full manic Jim Carrey mold like in his earlier films although this time it’s tinged a bit darker than usual. But Carrey is always great for funny asides and non–sequiturs and generally going crazy, like when Robotnik is in his technological headquarters starts break-dancing and running from dinosaurs. Carrey hasn’t used his impressive physicality in a while so it’s fun to see him do it again. Marsden gets saddled with the straight man to Sonic’s wacky kid but he manages to make bits funnier than the usually thankless human sidekick character is. Tom is married to Maddie (Tika Sumpter) who is just sort of there, they have a few pointless scenes debating his moving to a new city, but there is a payoff when Tom goes to visit Maddie’s sister which has some good snark.
The action scenes are solid, although Sonic slowing down time due to his super–speed owes a lot to the very awesome similar Quicksliver scenes from the X–Men movies. When Sonic and Tom are in a car they end up being chased by a robot tank that keeps breaking off into smaller things that continually comes after them which is a great unrelenting action scene. Sometimes the movie nerfs Sonic’s superpowers for the sake of drama, like when Tom shoots him with a tranquilizer dart Sonic can’t outrun Robotnik’s drones. Super–speed is pretty much an invincible super–power so writers inject convoluted ways to shut it off so there can be stakes. But the movie is at its best visually when Sonic goes into overdrive.
There are a few shout–outs to the original game in here, the best one being the end credits of the movie’s characters that looks like the 16 bit graphics of the Sega Genesis. Nintendo and Sega in the Console Wars of the ’80s and ’90s were continually sniping at each other in ads. Here, Sonic dismisses moving to a new world of Mushrooms because it’ll be totally boring. It feels like a thinly veiled swipe at the Mushroom Kingdom of Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers, so it is fun to see the Sega vs. Nintendo rivalry is still alive, if somewhat buried.
Sonic the Hedgehog is probably one of the best videogame adaptations ever, but that bar wasn’t very high to begin with. And even if it may have a potentially chilling effect on filmmakers, listening to fan complaints and changing Sonic’s look arguably has made the final product better. Jim Carrey stealing the show with his bombastic classic craziness helps. The movie does what is promised, it goes fast and is fun enough. V
Sonic the Hedgehog
Director: Jeff Fowler
Starring: Ben Schwartz,
James Marsden, Tika Sumpter
and Jim Carrey