This 2020 comedy adventure, based on the popular video game franchise by Sega, is directed by Jeff Fowler. It stars James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Lee Majdoub, Neal McDonough and features the voice talent of Ben Schwartz.
When a superfast, anthropomorphic hedgehog called Sonic (Schwartz) arrives on Earth from another dimension to protect himself from evil, he brings with him the power of super-speed and a collection of special gold rings that enable inter-dimensional travel.His arrival to the small American town of Green Hills doesn’t go unnoticed. The US Government link Sonic to a potentially crippling power outage and want to hunt him down with the help of scientist Ivo Robotnik (Carrey) and his technologically advanced arsenal.
Green Hill Sheriff Tom Wachowski (Marden) and wife Maddie (Sumpter) befriend Sonic and help him seek his rings and evade capture. However, Robotnik isn’t going to give up easily; he wants to harness Sonic’s dimensional speed powers, allowing him supremacy over all of Earth…
Sonic The Hedgehog went through a 3-month delay when the animators took to redesigning the animated model of our super-fast spiny mammal. In a what could be seen as industry first, social media backlash over the creepy human/hedgehog hybrid design forced Paramount and director Jeff Fowler (in his first directing role never-the-less) to come up with something more pleasing and less nightmare fuel.
The less said about the past, the better.
Fast-forward from November 2019 to February 2020 and a more approving, easy on the eye Sonic has arrived for his big-screen debut. At just under 90mins, this film is thankfully all about the kids it’s marketed at, but not without a few casual laughs for the grown-ups too. It’s also akin more to the original 1991 SEGA video game than expected, which is really good fun seeing how this is potentially ‘Sonic Begins’. From the “real” Green Hill Zone where Baby Sonic is first introduced (move over Baby Yoda, your cute card is at risk), to the chimes of golden rings, the robotics, the speed-boosts and introduction of the red shoes, this takes the lore perfectly from game to screen and that can’t be denied. Even composer Tom Holkenborg has plenty of musical riffs that fans will recognise. Fear not, Sonic fans, this could have been a lot worse.
It falls to Ben Schwartz to voice Sonic and bring his bubbly, zippy energy to life. Thankfully, he does just that without being overly irritating or silly. While he conveys more humanity in Sonic than expected, he still finds time to be the “teenager” we imagine Sonic is with cheeky attitude and plenty of pop culture quips about everyone from Obi-Wan Kenobi to The Rock and even Keanu Reeves. That man can do no wrong it seems, even for a hedgehog!
While Schwartz carries the energy of Sonic in his voice, mixed with slick and peppy animation, poor James Marsden and Tika Sumpter as man and wife and our human heroes don’t really get much evolution from being 2D characters there for Sonic to bounce off. While Marsden is likeable enough when he finally meets Sonic and they form their bond, it never really becomes anything more than what’s on the surface, and Stumper does even less and just there to move the plot from one crux to another. But again, as this is a kids / family film, it’s not going to be high on character development or plot.
Even when they hit the gas in a pick-up truck for a mid-movie road trip to search for the golden rings that enable inter-dimensional travel (remember those from the computer game, when you collect over 100 rings?), the fun doesn’t stop. It’s not a ‘Midnight Run’ or ‘The Blue Brothers’ sort of road-trip, but one with plenty of visual gags and goofs including some explosive drone action, fluffy hedgehog quills and trouble at a roadside bar.
Now, where the film really gains merit and what elevates it above the run-of-the-mill kid’s adaptation it was always going to be, is Jim Carrey. Not seen on the big screen since 2016s ‘Dark Crimes’, a grim thriller that came and went, it’s been over 15 years since we last saw some true Carrey comedy in the likes of ‘A Series Of Unfortunate Events’ and ‘Fun With Dick And Jane’. Here, as moustache-twirling villain Doctor Ivo Robotnik, Carrey is back to the style we’ve not seen since his mid-90s prime. Think ‘Ace Ventura’, coupled with ‘The Cable Guy’ and a hint of ‘The Mask’, and you have Robotnik. From his arrival on screen, his physical comedy is restrained from being overly slapstick, but his vocal comedy and aura are infectious – he’s clearly enjoying himself getting back into some over the top material, and in turn, audiences enjoy themselves too. While the kids may not have the sentiment older viewers will have seeing and hearing Carrey on form, his dastardly drone-toting villain has plenty of silly moments both on his own (dad dancing?) and with Sonic to amuse them.
With the always enjoyable slow-motion scenes (think ‘Days Of Future Past’ Quicksilver and ‘Justice League’ Flash) and some perfect scenes accompanied by Queens ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, this leap to the big screen has everything young and older audiences could ask for in a family-friendly adaptation. Its sickly sentiment is something we are used to now in these sort of films, with the morality of family, faith and self-belief ever-present, but there is lots of manic, flashy fun to be had along the way.
Sonic The Hedgehog plays it safe, as it should for the genre, and has Carrey to thank for making this more enjoyable than people expected it to be.
Oh, and stick around for two mid-credit sequences that once again do nothing but compliment the source material and fans, and 99% set up ‘Sonic The Hedgehog 2’.
Directed by: Jeff Fowler
Written by: Patrick Casey, Josh Miller
Cast: Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Lee Majdoub, Neal McDonough