Sonic the Hedgehog

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Sonic the Hedgehog fails to evoke the propulsive rush of its source material. There’s so much possibility in translating this character and the mythology he brings with him to the big screen. Unfortunately, this film gets bogged down in familiar family film antics. 


An adaptation of the popular game franchise of the same name, Sonic the Hedgehog follows Sonic (Ben Schwartz), a care-free, lightning-quick blue hedgehog who hides out, in fear of what those with villainous intent would do with his super-speed. Trouble comes calling in the form of a genius named Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey), who is brought in to deal with the growing threat of a rogue, ultra-powerful hedgehog. Sonic convinces a small-town police officer (James Marsden), who dreams of working in the big city to help him retrieve a few of his golden rings to help him flee this world and move on to a new one.


For a game franchise where the only real goal was to collect rings and defeat whatever boss lies in your path, the Sonic games have evolved to become something else entirely. We’re talking about various cartoons, video games,  board games, etc. Over time, Sonic has amassed quite an arsenal of supporting characters: Tails, Knuckles, Shadow, Amy. They have all become almost as synonymous with the franchise as Sonic himself and Sonic has become an icon of video gaming.


I don’t understand the screenwriter’s choice to coop Sonic up in a car for much of the film’s runtime. A character that is known for his speed finally arrives on the big screen and they chose to confine him to a car with James Marsden. When Sonic and his pal finally arrive at their destination, they reach a visually exciting climax, but no payoff can make up for the bland route that was taken to get there.


Jim Carrey delivers a next-level performance as Dr. Ivo Robotnik and he’s easily the film’s most valuable asset. Robotnik is another entry in the pantheon of zany, almost manic characters Carrey plays so beautifully. Carrey hasn’t been this in control of his comedic strengths in a long while and its great to see him back in his element. His performance is on an entirely different wavelength than the rest of the film and yet, it feels he knows exactly what this movie should be. Kooky, frenetic and even more cartoonish than the film’s CGI lead, Jim Carrey gives Sonic the Hedgehog a boost of energy it desperately needs. Ben Schwartz does a fine job as the blue speedster at the center of the film. There’s an innocence and playfulness to Sonic that Schwartz radiates well in his vocal performance. James Marsden is decent. He’s played this kind of role in other family films before like 2011’s Hop and is a good choice as a straight man to Sonic’s madcap energy.


Sonic the Hedgehog succeeds in finding a sort-of pathos within a rather surface-level protagonist. The games this film is based on are not known for their complicated and interesting characters, but this incarnation adds layers to his character. Sonic’s been taught to run away from the unknown and not to look back, but all he wants is to belong and to connect with the people around him. His gift becomes his curse and the film is about Sonic bonding with this police officer on their journey and finally gaining the family he’s wanted for so long. 


These games are not the most modern and this adaptation does its best to rectify that with countless references to current trends and popular culture to middling results. Even so, Sonic the Hedgehog struggles to keep its finger on the pulse of the culture. There are some shameless promotions of companies like Zillow, Olive Garden and Amazon throughout the film. They are delivered without an ounce of irony, making Sonic’s feature debut feel more like corporate propaganda than sly commentary. It feels so out of place in context with the rest of the film.


Sonic the Hedgehog is not the disaster many expected, nor the surprise sensation nobody saw coming, it’s just fine and I was hoping for more than that from this film. Fans of this character will relish getting to see him on the big screen, but I’m not sure I can confidently recommend this to those who are not die-hard Sonic fans.

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