Back in the day, I owned a Sega Genesis. That was back when buying a game console used to come with a game. The game that came with my new Sega Genesis was Sonic 2 and I was immediately hooked. The fast paced platforming combined with catchy music made me a very happy little boy. In fact, I STILL remember the button combination to unlock Super Sonic almost 25 years later. Imagine my delight when I first heard there was a trailer for a new Sonic movie. That delight turned into horror when I saw that Sonic looked like this:
That terrible design combined with the tone deaf trailer music (Gangsta’s Paradise??) made for a very outraged Internet. Fortunately, the visual effects team went back to the drawing board and totally redesigned Sonic so that now he looks like this:
That said, it must be mentioned that many of those visual effects artists likely put in long hours and overtime into the changes. I typically don’t believe that internet outrage should force companies into overworking their employees. In any case, the new design is MUCH better and more faithful to the original Sonic character design.
Before I start this review, I’d be remiss in not pointing out how terrible video game movies have been historically. Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat were all terrible. The Tomb Raider movies with Angelina Jolie were…passable if not enjoyable popcorn films. The recent 2018 movie reboot of Tomb Raider (which was itself based on the 2013 video game reboot) with Alicia Vikander released to mixed reviews. It currently holds a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes and 48% on Metacritic. However, things changed when Detective Pikachu came out last year. My family and I were able to rent it a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. Ryan Reynolds was cleverly used as Pikachu and it really immersed you into the world of Pokemon without needing prior knowledge of the games (although there were plenty of easter eggs for the Pokemon faithful). Does Sonic the Hedgehog continue the trend of good video game movies or does it fall a couple of rings short? Let’s find out.
Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything although there really isn’t that much to spoil. The story itself pretty cut and dry. Sonic (voice by Ben Schwartz) somehow gets to Earth and befriends a guy named Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). The pair then go off on an adventure while trying to fight off Dr. Robotnik (played by Jim Carrey). There’s nothing really mind-blowing about the story and is really kind of generic to be honest. However, Sonic fans will definitely want to stay during the credits.
Overall, the theme of the movie revolves around the friendship between Sonic and Tom. There’s nothing like Sonic on Earth and while having super speed is amazing, having a friend is even more amazing. The movie does a great job of showing the growing friendship between Sonic and Tom and provides emotional weight in the softer scenes. Another reviewer commented that if the old design had remained, Schwartz’s performance wouldn’t have had as much impact.
Ben Schwartz as Sonic was perfect casting in my opinion. Those who have grown up with the Sonic games, cartoon (shoutout to Jaleel White), and comics know that Sonic can be a bit cocky sometimes. I guess when you can regularly break the sound barrier at will it’s sort of warranted but it’s good to see Sonic’s trademark snark properly represented. Since Sonic has been on his own for a while, he often talks to himself or pretends to talk to people who don’t realize he’s there. As an introvert, I definitely related to this and it added to the sense of Sonic’s loneliness.
James Marsden as Tom was pretty decent in his role. Tika Sumpter played his wife Maddie and portrayed a loving chemistry together as husband and wife. It was great to see them being able to work out issues together, including how to deal with an anthropomorphic talking hedgehog. Overall, I enjoyed both Marsden and Sumpter in their respective roles.
I had to save the best for last though. The Jim Carrey you knew from the 90s is officially back. If you liked The Mask, Ace Ventura, or Liar Liar then you are in for a treat. Carrey plays Dr. Robotnik in a very animated and over the top way. He is the smartest guy in the room and he makes sure he lets e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e know it. He portrays just the right amount of fiendishness and is an excellent foil to Sonic’s bravado. The various insults that Sonic hurls at Robotnik will definitely make the Sonic fans happy. Carrey’s performance as Robotnik is so animated that it threatens to steal the shine from Sonic in some cases. However, Robotnik (or Eggman as some folks know him) is known to be a very animated character in the cartoons so Carrey’s performance is a faithful adaptation. I can’t wait to see what they do with Robotnik in future sequels.
What I Didn’t Like
There were things I didn’t like, unfortunately. The primary thing that let me down was the humor. Sonic himself is a very likable person and definitely knows how to insert pop culture references at the right moment. However, some of the jokes just fall flat and isn’t nearly as funny as Detective Pikachu was. If you’ve seen X-Men: Days of Future Past, there’s a scene involving a speedster that was very innovative when it first came out. Sonic does something similar, and while it was charming in it’s own right, does feel a bit derivative.
The other thing that didn’t really hit for me was the just the overall plot. It was generic and predictable although serviceable. I’m hoping that sequels are able to be a bit more original and dynamic. There are so many things in the games, comics, and cartoons to pull from although because this takes place on our Earth and not the fictional world that that’s portrayed in other media, I wonder how they’ll tie those other plot points and characters into it.
Boring plot and humor aside, I still enjoyed the movie as a Sonic fan…which is the key thing. If you never played any of the video games, watch the cartoon, or read any of the comics, you may or may not enjoy Sonic as much. You don’t have to have done any of that to enjoy the movie but Sonic fans will definitely like it more than non-Sonic fans. If you didn’t like Sonic before, you probably won’t like him now. However, I do think the movie has a lot of heart and teaches a great lesson about friendship (and even marriage). It’s rated PG but there’s really only like one curse word in the whole movie. I’d still recommend it for the whole family.