I remember buying Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991 for the Sega Genesis video game system. The idea behind the blue anthropomorphic hedgehog with lightning fast speed came from Sega desperately wanting their own mascot to go up against rival Nintendo’s universally beloved Mario. The game was a big success and spawned many sequels and spin-off titles. But did anyone think we would be a talking about a feature length live-action movie thirty years after Sonic’s conception?
Well, we have one and it comes from first-time feature film director Jeff Fowler. It goes without saying its path to the big screen has been rocky. It was original scheduled for release on November 8, 2019, but sweeping criticisms of the first trailer led to a delay and a complete overhaul of Sonic’s looks. This tacked on an addition $5 million to the budget but the money seems to have been well spent. Fans applauded the redesign and the movie set an opening weekend record for a video game inspired film.
I’ll admit, the responses to “Sonic the Hedgehog” have been surprising. It had the scent of box office disaster all over it. But Fowler along with co-writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller have tapped into something that has pleased old fans and drawn in a few new ones as well. Their action-comedy/buddy movie hybrid has its share of dopey storytelling and cornball humor, yet it still works as good-hearted kids entertainment and a fun little nostalgia trip.
The film opens with Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) being sent away from his home planet by his mentor and guardian Longclaw after an attack by some bow-wielding baddies. Longclaw gives Sonic a bag of rings that can transport him to new planets if he is ever discovered. Ten years pass and Sonic has found a home secretly living in a cave outside of Green Hills, Montana. It’s quiet and peaceful but the one thing our protagonist longs for is the friendship he stealthily observes from the local townsfolk.
One night Sonic’s loneliness gets the best of him and in frustration he runs so fast that he inadvertently emits a pulse that causes a brief blackout across the Pacific Northwest. In a ridiculous bit of government overreaction, the Department of Defense sends the military to Green Hills and gives control of the entire investigation to the brilliant yet raving mad Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). It’s such a preposterous move that you would think it was satire. Unfortunately it’s not.
Enter Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), the Green Hills sheriff with aspirations of leaving the small town and joining the San Francisco Police Department. But then he discovers Sonic hiding out at his house leading to a lot of yelling, a tranquilizer gun, and a portal to San Francisco accidentally opened and then shut. Sonic’s bag of rings ends up atop the Transamerica Pyramid and Tom agrees to help him retrieve them. The two set out on a road trip to San Fran with the tenacious Dr. Robotnik hot on their heals.
The film’s nimble plotting doesn’t allow it to stay in any one place for very long. That’s probably a good thing considering how silly the whole movie is. Fowler would rather breeze through the story than have it make much sense.￼ For youngsters that shouldn’t pose a problem. But parents of children should be aware that Fowler lazily throws in a few near curses, a pinch of sexual innuendo, and yet another tired fart joke. Not sure why any of those things are still considered funny in a kids movie.
When “Sonic the Hedgehog” keeps its focus on the light-hearted charm of its titular lead character and on exploring the theme of friendship it makes for a pretty good time. Also it’s great seeing Jim Carrey once again tapping into some of his signature wackiness. He chews up scenery like a starving man at a buffet, but it’s fun watching him do so. It all makes for a weird and unexpectedly entertaining stew that may challenge your tolerance for silliness but is fleet-footed enough not to overstay its welcome.
VERDICT- 3 STARS
It’s funny: I really had no interest in seeing this when I first heard about it. I thought it was going to be another video game movie disaster as most of them tend to be. There have been a few notable exceptions here and there, but most video game movies are generally not very good. Sonic actually surprised me. I went in with very low expectations and I actually came out enjoying it a great deal. There actually seemed to be respect for the source material, which is more than I can say for something like, say, Super Mario Bros., which I watched recently. What a train-wreck that was. Sonic is definitely a kid’s movie and I think it definitely works on that level. It’s awesome seeing Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey again. He steals the show.
I’m with you. No expectations whatsoever. But I had a good time with it. And Super Mario Bros….my gosh what a mess. I haven’t dared watch it again. Saw it once when it first came out and can’t imagine sitting through it again. This is head-and-shoulders better.
I can’t envisage a time where I’d want to see this, my kid is over 30 now and I was no good at the game anyway.
HA! I can understand that. To be honest I doubt I’ll ever see it again. But it was surprisingly entertaining.
Call me crazy, but for the Blu-Ray/DVD release, I want them to include a version of the film with the original model that they had of Sonic before they redesigned him for the release. I’m morbidly curious about that.
Oh I agree. A part of me really wants to see that version. He looked so weird and hideous. It was kinda funny.
Yeah, that was the stuff that nightmares are made of. 😛
I had a free movie ticket to use for my birthday and had already seen everything I’d cared about so I ended up at an evening showing last week. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I laughed. I thought Jim Carrey was great! And Sonic was such a lovable character. It probably won’t be recognized as the best animated film of the year (lots of buzz for Onward), but it’s proof that listening to fans on the Internet is important! The studio scored a home run instead of taking a bullet LOL
I liked this movie but had a different impression of the plot. I didn’t find it nimble. It was well paced and gave enough time to know what was necessary to know. It also wasn’t tiring.
That aside, we both agree that expectations were low (because history has not shown proof to be excited about video game films). But thanks to Jim Carrey, he was a formidable antagonist for Sonic. so the 3 stars I gave were largely due to him.
I thought the story was pretty brisk and kept us from thinking too long about how the DoD would give control of the military to a lunatic scientist, or why no one at a bar would recognize an alien hedgehog in a cowboy hat, or how front desk attendants at the Transamerica building would so easily let people on the roof. Again, small things that kids wouldn’t notice but it moves fast enough that adults don’t spend much time on them either.
The bar scene got me thinking about that too.
Sorry Keith that was my comment above. Thought it would direct me to Log in after clicking submit. it just went in as anonymous
Ha! No problem. WordPress has a mind of its own sometimes! 😂
I’ll wait for it on TV. I have little interest in seeing it though I am a fan of the game as I used to play it a lot.
Don’t blame you. It’s not something that demands a big screen viewing. But it was nice to be surprised.
Awesome review Keith 💙
Great review, thanks for sharing! I remember playing Sonic games on the Sega Megadrive 😉
Me too. I still have my original Sonic and Sonic 2 games. 🙂
Awesome review Keith! I just saw this movie and I loved it! I never expected to enjoy this film as much as I did! Sure, it did have some flaws, most notably the “road trip” plot, but it was entertaining to watch!
Glad you enjoyed it. It was a nice surprise. I never expected it to work considering the troubled production and that suspicious February launch date. But they pulled it off and I’m glad to see them making money for their efforts.