We have been propelled into the new decade at breakneck speed, ladies and gentlemen. The future is bright with many of our demons having been left behind in 2019. I am of course referring to Cats, and the original theatrical design of Sega’s main boy, Sonic the Hedgehog. May he not live on even as a meme. Fast forward to the excellent redesign, and my interest in Sonic’s first theatrical outing evolved from a ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ expectation, to instead legitimate anticipation.
He’s finally here. It’s not bad at all. In short, it’s a character from the 1990s in a story from the 2000s, making quips and gags from the 2010s.
Having had to flee his homeworld for fear of those who seek his powers, Sonic (voiced by Parks and Rec’s Ben Schwartz) has been hanging around on Earth for some time. He’s gotten lonely and one evening, his antics grab the attention of one Dr. Ivo Robotnik (played by Jim Carrey) and his army of egg-shaped drones. On the run, the hedgehog befriends Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), a small-town cop who is subsequently pulled into the madness and has to help Sonic make a break for it. It’s an adventure filled with friendship, golden rings, and enough modern-day humour to fill a Fortnite streaming session.
Let’s begin with the shortcomings. Sonic the Hedgehog is subject to Hollywood’s preference for taking a cartoon fictional character and dropping them into our world, instead of them residing in their own and exploring the stories that lie therein (something that the last video game theatrical adaptation we got, 2019’s Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, deserves props for not doing). We only get brief snippets of Sonic’s homeworld and while the film is chock-full of video game Easter eggs, and a juicy cameo that makes me really want a sequel, it’s annoying that they went down this route. The journey on this route is also predictable. The plot yields no surprises, one could very easily map out where it’s all heading, what the characters will go through and how it all will end.
Said plot also moves at an incredibly fast pace. Good for Sonic, less good regarding quality storytelling. First-time theatrical director Jeff Fowler may supposedly not have much trouble dealing with a structure as formulaic as this, but the emotional moments scattered throughout the movie are led into too suddenly and are over before they can effectively land. It’s just too fast.
However, these shortcomings can be overlooked owing to specific factors. One, this film’s target audience of kids will not care about the plot’s predictability. And two, Sonic and Marsden’s Tom enjoy really good chemistry with each other throughout the movie. This may not be the world and residing characters we may prefer to have seen, but they’re not annoying and they don’t draw too much attention from the headlining star (except for one human. I’ll get to him). Sonic has a very distinct, very 90s teenager attitude about him and I mean that in a good way.
The fact that he’s been on Earth for some time means that he’s not a fish out of water and we don’t have to put up with him marvelling at every little thing. His humour can be hit or miss; it’s not going to age well and it does feature some toilet jokes – but he doesn’t put up with Marsden’s terrible puns so I appreciate that. Marsden meanwhile positively contributes with great comedic timing, serving as an audience surrogate who rolls his eyes at the hedgehog’s one-liners. Along with Tika Sumpter who co-stars as Tom’s wife Maddie and Lee Majdoub as Robotnik’s assisting agent, the performances in the movie are perfectly fine.
What exceeds ‘perfectly fine’ is a man I am so glad to see back on the big screen. The nefarious Dr Robotnik is a larger-than-life villain, and Jim Carrey is here to do him full delicious justice. He devours screen time, gluttonously chewing up the scenery. He even has his own dance sequence. While Sonic deals in modern-day pop culture references and an emotional hand during his screen time, fleeting though the emotions are, Carrey delivers the full cheese platter of every iteration we have seen of the character. The games, the TV shows, that weird anime movie featuring Metal Sonic from the 90s, Carrey is emblematic of all that madness combined with hyper-intelligence. At times, he can overshadow Sonic, but his revelling remains a joy to watch.
I foresee many young kids going nuts over Sonic the Hedgehog. Good kids’ movies that adults can enjoy (or at least tolerate) and that don’t come out of the House of Mouse are few and far between. Sonic may be low-brow and not hold much weight with those who didn’t grow up during his heyday, but it’s still immensely fun and the best version of the character that we could’ve got. The same goes for Robotnik. I enjoyed watching their escapades and I hope to see more of them.
Last Updated: February 24, 2020