By Jason Delgado
The track record for films based on video games is a dubious one at best. For every unexpected delight like Mortal Kombat, there are numerous unwatchable bombs such as Super Mario Bros. So where does Sonic the Hedgehog fall on the scale? I’d say, somewhere in the middle.
The movie centers on the alien, super fast Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz). He’s a lonely hedgehog who’s out of place on Earth. Enter small town sheriff Tom Wachowski (played by the original X-men Cyclops James Marsden), and a buddy comedy ensues as Tom tries to protect Sonic from experiments attempted by the diabolical Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
Back in the day, when I was young, I’d spend countless hours playing the various incarnations of Sonic with my sister. So many kids in the 90’s did the same, or watched the Saturday morning cartoon. Now, their children are playing the newer versions of those games, so the old hedgehog is as ripe as ever for a movie adaptation. There’s so much passion for the character that fan outcries over the “muscular” design of Sonic, as well as the weird look of his face, in the early posters and first trailer for the film led Paramount to postpone the movie for months in order to give Sonic more of a classic look in the finished product.
The feel of the character seems right to me; I just wish that Paramount would have given as much attention to the script as they did to appearances. Sonic is a wise-cracking speedster, much like the Flash, for whom he shares an affinity for in the film by being an avid collector of said comic book. The problem is that many of the jokes simply fall flat, or worse yet, are dumbed-down to be geared towards children. Haven’t producers learned anything from franchises like Toy Story or the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Kids are intelligent, so why not make movies for all ages, so that everyone walks out happy, and the studios make bank?
There are enjoyable moments in Sonic the Hedgehog, such as early in the film when Sonic takes a turtle for a quick spin, in order to show him the fast life, while Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now is playing in the soundtrack. I also got a kick out of the nostalgic nods, such as when the movie score plays a bit of the all-too-familiar Sonic video game music, or the opening Sega logo, showcasing the original Sonic and then expanding to a multitude of box screens that show many of their classic games all at once, and the end credits showing a 16-bit Sonic game being played with elements of the movie added.
It’s ironic for a speedster like Sonic, who is clocked in the film at being able to go 300 miles an hour, that the film itself is at times slow and dull. All of the elements of a fun movie are there. I enjoyed Ben Schwartz’s delivery as Sonic, just not the jokes themselves. Likewise, James Marsden is likeable as the sheriff who winds down by spending nights with his wife watching Keanu Reeves in Speed, and wants nothing more than to leave the small town of Green Hills, Montana for the bright lights of San Francisco. There just isn’t much chemistry between Schwartz and Marsden due to the script, which can be a bit of a problem in a buddy flick.
The other major box office draw for Sonic is the new man of a thousand faces, Jim Carrey. He burst onto the scene in the 90’s as a wildly innovative comedy mastermind, coming across as an animated character come to life. Like much of the world, I’m a huge fan of Carrey’s early comedies, especially Dumb and Dumber, so his turn as a vaudeville-like villian has been highly anticipated. Sadly, it seems like in Sonic, he’s simply recycling his old Ace Ventura faces and delivery. Back then, Carrey was so original, but in this film, he’s simply rehashing his glory days.
I give Sonic the Hedgehog two out of five hot sauce packets. Here’s hoping that the likely sequels will bring the laughs and originality that this installment lacked.
P.S. – Stick around for the mid-credits scene for a tease on what could be next for Sonic.