“Sonic the Hedgehog”- Movie Review
You don’t have to be a video game nerd to know who Sonic the hedgehog is. Since his introduction in 1991, the character’s popularity has skyrocketed, solidifying his status as a cultural icon. Given the success of the video games and spin-off media, you’d think we would already have a feature film version by now. But nope! Turns out fans had to wait about twenty years before they could see their icon on the big screen. Hopefully it was worth the wait.
This live-action adaptation stars Ben Schwartz as Sonic, a blue-spined anthropomorphic hedgehog with the ability to run at superhuman speed. Having left his home dimension when he was a child, Sonic has since settled on Earth in the small town of Green Hills, Montana. He lives in secret, of course. Because as anyone knows, with great power comes a great many enemies who want to hunt you down and harness that power for themselves. His cover is blown after a super speeding incident causes a state-wide blackout. This attracts the attention of Dr. Robotnic (Jim Carrey), an evil genius obsessed with uncovering the source of the outage. With a madman mastermind hot on his trail, Sonic teams up with kindly Green Hills police chief, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) to escape Robotnic’s clutches and return to his own realm.
A common theme my reviews seem to follow nowadays is writing about adaptations of source material I’m not at all familiar with. Seriously, you had a dollar for every time I’ve made this disclaimer, you’d probably have enough cash to pay your rent for the next six months. My knowledge of Sonic the Hedgehog is only skin deep. I know him solely as a household name. I’ve never played his video games, never watched the 90s animated show, and overall do not have any nostalgic connection to him whatsoever. That being said, I was mildly interested in how the character’s big screen debut would fare.
To my surprise, it fares pretty well. The film is by no means a great movie. Nor is it an especially good one. It hits the usual notes you’d expect in a movie like this would hit, but it does so in just enough of an interesting way that it makes for a decently entertaining sit. The plot follows a very familiar formula- a magical/extraterrestrial creature gets transported to the human world (usually either to New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago); they befriend a good-nature but frustrated corporate business person, wacky slapstick and hijinks ensue, and the two must work together to foil the schemes of an enemy hell-bent on taking out the lead creature. I’m not sure why studios keep applying this storyline to adaptations of iconic characters (*cough, *cough, Smurfs, *cough). It’s such lazy storytelling. But the filmmakers here do some things differently. They trade the big city setting for the mountainous countryside. The main human character isn’t some accountant or advertising executive. He’s a humble small town police officer. And there’s not a ton of wasteful focus on the goofy antics. Little changes like that are refreshing.
But again, these are only slight differences. The rest of the film doesn’t do much else in terms of originality. The story as a whole is very conventional, and the script isn’t well written. Although the actors give solid performances, their deliverse can’t make a lot of the awkward dialogue work. It doesn’t help that the film’s pacing moves just as fast as Sonic. The film rarely allows for time to breathe or for the more heartfelt moments to sink in. Everything just feels rushed.
Yet despite its faults, this isn’t a poorly made movie. It’s clear that the people involved in this project- the filmmakers and the actors- were trying to make a good Sonic the Hedgehog movie. The friendship between Sonic and Marsden’s character is genuinely sweet, and the action sequences are a lot of fun. Jim Carrey as the villain is classic 90s Jim Carrey. While his over-the-top mannerisms didn’t spur verbal bursts of laughter from me, it was nice to see him doing his usual schtick. The humor- again, not written particularly well- has only one fart joke. One fart joke. Now that’s what I call effort.
If you’re a massive Sonic fan, there’s no doubt you’ll like this movie. For others, like me, who don’t carry any kind of childhood attachment to this character, you may still enjoy it fine. As predictable and underwhelmingly written as it is, the film has one important element that adaptations like this normally lack- heart.