There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the release of Sonic The Hedgehog. Based on the classic Sega character, who might be just as infamous as he is famous. As a long time fan of Sonic, I was ready to see this film, whether it was good or not.
When the first trailer came out, I knew the initial design for Sonic was terrible, and I wasn’t too surprised when they decided to go back to the drawing board to make a new one. Paramount and company made an effort to hire Tyson Hesse to fix the design. Tyson’s previous experience includes having worked on the game Sonic Mania and the Sonic Mania Adventures YouTube series. While Hesse’s creative input managed to help make a more agreeable design, the studio (Moving Picture Company) that helped with animating the film was shut down just before Christmas of last year. Something to think about while watching the admittedly enjoyable movie.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get into the movie itself. It begins with a flash-forward to the final confrontation between Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and Sonic (Ben Schwartz). Sonic addresses the audience during a freeze-frame, explaining that he’s gotten a bit ahead of himself before the film takes us back to his origins. We see Sonic on his home planet with his apparent guardian, an owl named Longclaw. Now don’t call me a fake Sonic fan, but I’m not sure if she was created specifically for this movie or if she’s a deep-cut, but she had an exciting design that seems like it would have fit in with Guardians of Ga’hoole. As Longclaw explains why Sonic should try to keep a low profile, a group of creatures I’m sure all Sonic fans are familiar with attacks the two.
After taking a hit from an arrow, Longclaw hands Sonic a bag of rings before using one to send him to earth where he ends up living for the next ten years. Though a bit fast-paced, even for Sonic, it’s a solid intro and probably my second favourite part of the movie.
From here, the movie shows us what Sonic has been up to, living in the town of Green Hills, Montana, where he eventually meets Sheriff Tom Wachowski, played by James “Dammit, he is in fact that charming” Marsden.
Sonic sneaks into Tom’s Garage while on the run from Robotnik, planning to escape to another planet using one of his rings. However, he is discovered by Tom, who ends up shooting Sonic with a tranquillizer gun he had on him to deal with raccoons. The last thing Sonic sees is Tom’s San Francisco shirt, causing a dropped ring to open up a portal to the city and close just as Sonic falls to the ground and drops his rings through.
After Sonic wakes up and the two have a brief confrontation with Robotnik, they come to a compromise where Tom agrees to help Sonic get his rings so he can get home.
From here, the film slows down a bit with some fun but ultimately cliched fish out of water tropes that still manage to somewhat land thanks to the performances of Schwartz and Marsden. One such scene being where Sonic and Tom end up getting mistaken for hipsters and start a bar fight that ends with Sonic using his speed to trip up everyone in the bar at once so they can escape.
It’s hard to say that their journey to San Francisco was my least favourite part of the movie, but it certainly felt the least “Sonic.” Something about it felt like you could replace Sonic with almost any other notable video game or cartoon character and still get the same passably entertaining sequence of events.
What makes up for it is again, Marsden’s on-screen presence, as well as the dynamic comedic duo of Robotnik and his assistant Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub). While Sonic and Tom make their way to San Francisco, the evil pair begin researching Sonic’s abilities for the US government, using robotic “Badnik” drones. Their interactions make me think of Bob Hopskins and Dustin Hoffman in Hook.
After a fight between our heroes and a multilayered Badnik that leaves Sonic injured and unconscious, Tom takes Sonic to his veterinarian wife, who is currently staying with her sister and niece. She’s there in preparation for a move that the couple had planned upon Tom getting a new job with the San Francisco PD. Maddie Wachowski (Tika Sumpter) helps to bring Sonic back to good health. While the scene itself is actually pretty funny, I could have done without the continuous joke of Maddie’s sister not liking Tom for some reason. It’s never explained beyond she is also a divorcee herself.
Tom, Maddie and Sonic manage to find the rings on the roof of the Transamerica Pyramid, where they are confronted by Robotnik, who harnesses the power from one of Sonic’s quills to keep up with the hedgehog in his prototype ship. Sonic uses his rings to make Robotnik chase him around the world, in what ends up being the most substantial part of the film as a whole. They eventually end up back in Green Hills, for the tail end of the battle, with Robotnik having the upper hand.
Sonic eventually defeats the doctor with the aid of Tom, Maddie and the Green Hills townspeople and sends the doctor off-planet by knocking him through a ring. There’s a wrap up involving Sonic deciding to stay with the Wachowski’s, the town agreeing to keep Sonic a secret from the government and a look at Robotnik’s new life on a planet of mushrooms.
This movie is passable. While I don’t think it will do anything to harm the reputation of the Sonic franchise effectively, I don’t think it will do it any favours either. While the performances by the majority of the cast deserve praise, it feels like they gave this movie more than it deserved. A lot of the jokes and dramatic points feel genuine and managed to get me, but there’s a feeling that this movie isn’t sure of itself. Especially with the weird sprinkle of product placement bits throughout the film. The Olive Garden name drop manages to redeem itself with a cute little joke towards the end.
I think there is something to be said about doing a good enough job with limitations set upon you, but there is also something to be said when those you’re the one to set those limitations on yourself. The studio took a very “safe” route, opting to give people a taste of Sonic’s world instead of diving right into it. While I’d be interested to see a sequel where these same writers (and hopefully animators) get to go all out, I can’t say I’d be surprised if this movie doesn’t do well because, despite some exciting looks at what a full-on Sonic the Hedgehog movie could look like, all we get is a cookie-cutter live-action film that settles for marginally good enough.
If I had to give this movie a grade, I’d give it a C+ for the performances managing to be a select type of funny, but never really feeling like it breaks the speed limit of what it could have been as the first blockbuster video game movie of the year.
Edited By Keshav Kant