Directed by: Jeff Fowler
Written by: Pat Casey & Josh Miller
Starring: James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Tika Sumpter, Jim Carrey
The incredibly long journey to find a proper video game adaptation continues, as finding the correct balance between the two mediums comes with its issues. Many have tried and failed in this quest and while Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t blow anyone out of the water, it proves to have put together something fun and worthy of the character.
Living on Earth for years now, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) runs incredibly fast and remains unaware of his true potential as he lives in the small town of Green Hills. Protecting this small community is Tom (James Marsden), who dreams of greener pastures and having more to do as a police officer in San Francisco. As the two meet, they must now run away from the United States government and the evil Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
Having fairly limited experience with the Sonic games, the main appeal of this character comes from his ability to run very quickly and the other friends tagging along for the ride. This feature decides to focus squarely on him and the adventures he has with Tom, which results in a blossoming friendship as they help each other establish what they want in life. At the beginning of the feature, Tom wants to move to San Francisco because Green Hills offers nothing new, and the move to the big city will give him the chance to actually save lives. Sonic, on the other hand, came from a different planet and must decide whether he wants to go back home or make Earth his permanent residence.
The film has its limitations with its story and much of the logic within it fails to hold water. For example, Sonic seems to have picked up plenty of pop culture references of his time on Earth but he could not comprehend what a bucket list was. He makes jokes about getting five stars like he’s an Uber driver but never heard of one of the most basic terms in popular culture. As basic and by-the-numbers as the story may be, it comes with a level of charm making it something worth seeing, especially with the controversy heading into the film’s release.
The first look of Sonic came with controversy because he looked nothing like the video game character, almost to a disturbing degree. He had human-like teeth and a weird figure, and the backlash to this first look led to a complete redesign of the character, which paid dividends in the film. One can look down on the story, but the design of Sonic looks exceptional. The computer-generated animation of the character fits in seamlessly throughout the story and a bunch of credit goes towards the effects crew, who never get the appropriate amount of appreciation.
Voicing the quick creature is one my personal favorite comedians, Ben Schwartz, who made a splash on the hit show Parks and Recreation. His character in that series had the right level of smug to make him lovable, but he goes in the completely opposite direction here with Sonic and it works out incredibly well. He’s paired with James Marsden, who I contend has been short-changed for the majority of his career. Not only was he screwed over with the complete dismissal of the Cyclops character in the X-Men films, but he consistently churns out great work with little to no recognition. His work in Enchanted alone surpasses the work of most current movie stars and he does just fine in this role. This character could have been played by anyone, as it’s simply the human sidekick character, who serves as the human surrogate for the audience through all of the explosions. Marsden does well acting opposite of an animated creature and hopefully, this role gives him a bit of a revival.
The main villain, Dr. Robotnik played by Jim Carrey turned out to be a character the famous comedic actor has aced all throughout his career. Bombastic and incredibly intelligent, Robotnik feels like a character only Carrey could bring to life. The look from the video game feels impossible to replicate in live-action but they certainly did him justice. His use of drones makes him a worthy adversary for Sonic, especially when he begins to discover how to catch up to the quick Hedgehog. For a character that feels incredibly over the top, Carrey musters the energy necessary and it feels like a return to form for the actor.
Sonic the Hedgehog does nothing special with its story or presentation, but it gets the characters right and tells a sufficient story for this video game saga. I’m sure more movies will be made about the character, as his popularity continues and I look forward to seeing how they expand as they add in other friends and villains found in the video game series. Funny in moments and boasting some stellar visual effects, this film will entertain, which is what it sought to do.