Movie review: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ designs updated for fans, still runs short on entertainment
(Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Sega of America)
"Sonic the Hedgehog"
By Sam Connon
February 13, 2020 11:32 pm
Sonic’s first live-action movie turned out to be a run-of-the-mill family action flick, despite months of viral Twitter drama.
The film, featuring the famous 1990s video game character, has been in the works for almost 30 years, but it was the first official trailer for “Sonic the Hedgehog” that set the internet ablaze in April. The “uncanny valley” character design was quickly changed following fan backlash, delaying the release to redo the visual effects. Sonic may have looked more like his video game counterpart when he finally hit the big screen, but a makeover couldn’t save the movie as a whole. Chock-full of cliches, cringes and oversimplified character arcs, “Sonic the Hedgehog” falls flat, despite its charismatic protagonists and wildly entertaining villain.
The film begins with a flashback to a younger version of Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) on his home planet after an eye-roll-inducing and overdone record-scratch opening action scene. After fleeing his world and hiding out in the small town of Green Hills, Montana, for 10 years, Sonic accidentally exposes himself and turns to local policeman Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) to protect him. The duo ventures on a road trip to San Francisco to retrieve Sonic’s teleportation rings, all the while having to evade the villainous Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and his army of drones.
The journey culminates in a few fun action scenes that make the most out of slow-motion effects and Sonic’s super speed, but the overall trip is standard fare for the genre. Sonic and Tom are individually funny and have their moments, but their relationship is as by-the-numbers as it gets – with tired and juvenile lessons about making friends and leaving home sputtering from the start.
Sonic’s scatterbrained nature is the source of a lot of good comedy, but his constant conversations with himself leads the alien hedgehog to state the obvious, talking down to the audience through stale exposition dumps a few too many times. Tom is surprisingly charming as a co-lead, however, with Marsden’s line delivery being much improved over his past appearances in blockbusters such as “Hop” and the “X-Men” franchise.
But the standout performance is easily Carrey’s go at Dr. Robotnik, as he was able to chew scenery and have fun in the role, despite a corny script. It almost comes off as a copy of Will Ferrell’s Mugatu from “Zoolander,” but he is still entertaining, despite the similarities.
However, between subplots about Tom’s dull professional goals and Sonic’s unimaginative attempts at making friends as an outsider, almost everything outside of the main trio’s performances is a bore. The comedy is there, but it gets bogged down by already-dated running jokes about flossing and selfies. The supporting cast of Adam Pally, Lee Majdoub and Natasha Rothwell are all extremely one-note, and Tom’s wife, Maddie (Tika Sumpter), is barely more interesting than a cardboard cutout with brief narrative importance.
The movie leans heavily on comedic bits, but the action half of the action-comedy is extremely uniform and safe. Using slow-motion to show off Sonic’s speed is fun at first – and his “Thor: Ragnarok”-inspired blue lightning powers were an interesting touch as well – but that’s as far as the action really goes. While the stakes are heightened as the film progresses, the concepts behind the action scenes remain stagnant.
There were enough jokes and action scenes on display to fill up two trailers and a handful of TV spots, but there isn’t much left in “Sonic the Hedgehog.” A predictable plot and boring character journeys didn’t do much for the film, but some of the in-jokes and Easter eggs might please lifelong Sonic fans and younger audiences enough for them to get some enjoyment out of it.
But as a film, “Sonic the Hedgehog” just isn’t up to speed in today’s blockbuster landscape.