I’m at a loss on this one. What was clearly destined to be a failure, with a horrifying, nightmare-fueled design for one of the most iconic video game mascots of all time, has turned out to be a run-of-the-mill, slightly above average kids movie. I’m shocked.
Sonic the Hedgehog is about… erm…. Sonic the Hedgehog (Ben Schwartz). Fast talking, fast running, fast everything is the gist of his personality. Because of his incredible speed powers, he lives in hiding to prevent evil forces from hunting him down for their own nefarious purposes. So he lives in a rural Montana town, shadowing town sheriff Tom (James Marsden), his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), and pretends he’s a part of their lives while they don’t know he exists.
This sad existence becomes too much for Sonic, and he ends up accidentally unleashing his powers, attracting the attention of the eccentric and robot obsessed Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Through a series of comedic inconveniences, Tom crosses paths with Sonic and accidentally transports his bag of teleportation rings (just go with it) to San Francisco, sending the duo on a road trip to retrieve them and send Sonic off to a safer world.
It’s bizarre to think about the old version of Sonic’s character design and how it might have affected the feel of the finished film. As I was watching, the final design seemed like such a great fit for the material, the humor, and for Ben Schwartz’s performance that it’s almost unthinkable to imagine what the original film looked like. But I can’t pretend like pushing the release date back several months and redoing major character animation solved every problem with Sonic.
Namely, that it’s a pretty generic, paint-by-numbers kids movie. A CGI redo can’t possibly be expected to save the film from its cliché buddy road trip structure. But what Sonic lacks in originality, it has a surplus in charm. Clever use of elements from the game (teleporting rings playing a major role in the story) and cheeky jabs at Sonic’s place in internet culture aimed at older viewers, and a weird sense of humor kept me going. One thing I found fun — Sonic is trying to get his rings back so he can ditch Earth and escape to a safe yet bland planet filled with nothing but mushrooms. I can’t think of a single reason why SEGA would consider being banished to a mushroom kingdom to be a sad fate. Not a one.
Schwartz is having a blast voicing Sonic. After Hop and a few other live-action/animated features, Marsden knows how to act against a cartoon character and has fun with the part. But no one in Sonic is having a better time than Jim Carrey, whose manic energy and scenery chewing elevates Dr. Robotnik from just a kids movie villain to someone actually fun to watch. It’s just too bad that his trademark robots are bland drones with HAL eyes and stock chrome finish, which is disappointing given the source material had plenty to pull from.
If you’re looking for a cinematic masterpiece, Sonic ain’t it, chief. But as far as kids movies based on iconic intellectual properties are concerned, Sonic is fun. Not as fun as the games, but still fun.
Sonic’s gotta go fast, but you can probably wait for VOD.