Sonic the Hedgehog
The speedy bundle of blue fluff makes the leap to the big screen — but fans of the game might be left scratching their heads.
February 13, 2020
First up, some good news: the Sonic the Hedgehog film could've been a whole lot worse. Mostly because, as you might've seen in the movie's nightmarish first trailer, it initially was. But while Sonic thankfully no longer looks like a toothy blue Matt Dillon from There's Something About Mary, the rushed cosmetic changes carried out by Paramount only run skin-deep. Sonic the Hedgehog might now look pretty great, but the film is a hot mess just about everywhere else.
To begin with, it's a mystery why this movie even exists. Not only is the Sega game it's based on almost 30 years old, but films based on video games are like white whales for studios — strangely irresistible yet doomed to cause ruin. It's appropriate that one of the first (and undoubtedly one of the worst) examples was Super Mario Bros back in 1993, since it was that game franchise that led to Sonic's creation. Did Hollywood learn nothing? The appeal of gaming lies squarely in the user's participation — "play, don't watch" should be scrawled on every movie executive's cheque book — and these films do not work.
Following Sonic's adventures on earth as he accidentally attracts the US government's attention, then tries to escape them, the other big problem with Sonic the Hedgehog is the pacing. Specifically, Sonic's. His whole reason for existing is to go fast — super fast. He's like the Flash, Road Runner and X-Men's Quicksilver combined. And while there are some genuinely fun sequences where viewers get to see that play out, he spends a full third of the film cruising around in a sensibly-priced sedan. Worse — he's not even driving.
Live-action is very much in vogue at the moment (see: Beauty and the Beast, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu), but this feels like an instance where a completely animated film would've been the superior option. The movie's opening five minutes take place on Sonic's home planet, and it's a tantalising glimpse of what might have been had first-time feature director Jeff Fowler gone down that road. Ah well.
Cast-wise, there's a clear standout. Jim Carrey is back in full force, dropping the most endearingly over-the-top performance audiences have seen from him in ages. As villain Dr Robotnik, he's somehow even more cartoonish than the CGI Sonic — and it's spectacular. Like Sonic's running, however, there's far too little of it throughout. Instead, the lion's share of screen time is reserved for Sonic (voiced by Parks and Recreation's Ben Schwartz) and his new pal Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), the local sheriff who's helping him avoid capture. Giving credit where credit's due, Marsden delivers the goods, charming his way through scenes that ought to have tanked hard. Schwartz, too, makes the inspired choice of keeping Sonic low-key instead of manic, resulting in a far more likeable hero.
As a kid-friendly family film, Sonic the Hedgehog ticks all the boxes, including the apparent must-have of a central character doing the floss (twice, in this instance). Query, though, how many kids even know who Sonic is. The same question applies to writers Patrick Casey and Josh Miller (YouTube series 12 Deadly Days), who not only relegate the eponymous character to scant speediness, but have also crowbarred in a ton of woeful pop culture references that will date this film far too quickly.
Since his creation in 1991, Sonic the side-scrolling bundle of blue fluff has earned over $5 billion. That's some legacy, and one this middling film will neither damage nor improve.