Review- Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog will make you feel like a child again. Not from any real nostalgic rush but from recapturing the experience of being stuck in a car over a seemingly endless road trip, unsure of why you’re going, or even where your destination is.
Also, you're being pursued by Jim Carrey.
Sonic (the titular hedgehog) is from another planet where anthropomorphic animals run amok. Going for a super-fast jog one-morning Sonic attracts the unfortunate attention of a tribe who want to steal his unnatural powers (somehow) and murder his adoptive parent owl. Unsettlingly warned to "never stop running" Sonic escapes to our world via a magic ring, to the small town of Green Hills, the first of many references to his video-game origins.
After being discovered years later, Sonic is forced to go to San Francisco to retrieve his golden rings with local sheriff Tom Wachowski, played by James Marsden. However with mad scientist Jim Carrey in hot pursuit (yes, it’s easier to say Jim Carrey rather than his character- Dr. Robotnik) Sonic has to fight the scientist and his many inventions to escape earth.
One of the standouts is certainly Carrey, who has been given full reign of his screen-time. Forget the new Welsh Dr Dolittle, Ace Ventura is back and seems to be on speed. Your mileage of this entire film will hinge on your relationship with Carrey’s zaniness, as its certainly alive when he’s on-screen, for better or worse.
Sonic himself is a mixed bag. Alternating between existential dread at his loneliness, toddler-like irritating behaviour, and Deadpool-Esque pop-culture references he seems designed by committee to appeal to everyone and yet nobody. Floss dancing and impersonating Vin Diesel may be the key to somebody’s heart but it makes for an unconvincing hero, despite numerous scenes ripping off the wonderful Quicksilver slow-mo segments from the later X-Men sequels. (Prequels? Reboots? Who knows.) Despite a lively vocal performance from Ben Schwartz the character always feels too focus tested to ever really warm to.
Not to say that there’s zero fun along the way. Tom and Sonic’s easygoing friendship has some charm, sidestepping the mismatched buddy comedy dynamic by making Sonic his biggest fan before they even meet. If anything there should be more conflict between the two given that Sonic is responsible for him having to go on the run after being branded a terrorist on TV. Not a term you would expect to hear in a Sonic the Hedgehog film, even Dr Robotnik is apparently responsible for drone strikes in Pakistan?
Given his video-game crimes extended to turning rabbits into robots it’s quite the escalation.
Fittingly adapting a game known for it’s speed, the filmmakers have given this an absurdly quick pace. We begin with Sonic in the final battle telling the story by jumping back to another planet, then to Green Hills, and soon enough we’re on the road again. Why do so many wacky action-comedy films use this structure? To create the illusion of narrative depth? Perhaps the writers saw Sunset Boulevard and decided that it had the perfect framing device for a Sonic film? Absurd nonetheless.
Given the history of video-game adaptations, Sonic is definitely in the upper echelon despite making a lot of the missteps of 90’s efforts.
In this way, it feels like a film of that era, a strange reinterpretation of the source material akin to Super Mario Brothers (Dennis Hopper even has a small cameo here via Speed footage). Despite a redesign of the original model this film remains a bizarre beast though not completely without charm.
It’s unlikely you’ll be rushing to the sequel rather than rushing to leave once the credits begin.