The Sonic the Hedgehog movie has had an interesting journey to make it to the big screen. It started out with teases and leaks to a newly designed and more “realistic” take on the blue blur. When the first trailer dropped and showed off what he looked like there was such a (deserved) backlash that it made the studio redo Sonic completely. It’s unprecedented that a backlash was so loud and heated that a studio decided it was worth it to listen to the fans and change something. But was it really worth it? HELL. YES. While the story is more paint by numbers set up, Sonic’s acting and his expressiveness, along with Jim Carrey circa 1994 elevate this film to a fun and carefree ride.
Sonic the Hedgehog, directed by Jeff Fowler, starts out with a look gorgeous at his world with baby Sonic running through Green Hill Zone. I shudder to think what the original design’s baby form would have looked like but this baby Sonic is adorable and feisty. We learn that enemies are after him for his power and he is sent away to our world using his rings as portals a la the original Sonic the Hedgehog game. He sets up shop in the small town of Green Hills in the Pacific Northwest where he stays in hiding for ten years in fear of being captured. After being discovered by Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and a mishap that loses his rings, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) must team up with the reluctant local sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) to ride down to San Francisco to get sonic to safety and off-world. The plot itself is nothing new, in fact, it’s a pretty standard formula for this type of movie. The Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, Hop, it’s been done before. But Sonic sets itself apart because of two reasons. The care and respect for the property, and the fun portrayals of the characters, which includes sonic design.
Let’s talk about the design first ‘cause it’s important. They really capture Sonic here, I never once felt like this take of him wasn’t true to the character. It is a kid’s movie, so it’s no surprise that a hyperactive blue ball of quills and speed would make pop culture references or do the floss dance when he’s excited. It never gets to Deadpool levels, it’s a pretty good balance that Sonic has done before in the old Adventures cartoon or more recently in the Boom cartoon. He’s a super-expressive character and Ben Schwartz nails this role. But this would NOT have worked with that original design. Changing it for this movie was the smartest thing they could have done. There are a few genuinely touching scenes when Sonic is sad or hurt and it would have fallen flat without the new design.
We also need to talk about Jim Carrey for a second. This is Jim Carrey’s return to form, this is Ace Ventura, The Mask, In Living Color Jim Carrey and it’s great to see him again. He’s never super over the top but you can tell he’s having a great time with the character. In fact, it feels like everyone is just having a ball in this movie. There’s a lot of nods to the original Sonic games and even some of the comic book lore. It’s never enough to make non-Sonic fans to feel left out. There’s actually a really good set up at the beginning of the film and at the end that I hope we can explore more in the future. James Marsden is no stranger to road movies with a CGI character but he does a good job, you can really feel the building comradery between him in Sonic.
These are all really good aspects of the film, but it’s not like it’s a perfect movie. The biggest flaw here and most movies with this set up, that there’s too much focus on the human characters and not enough on Sonic and Robotnik. The leftover effect from the original design being more “realistic and grounded” puts more focus on our human world and Tom and his family. Sonic and Robotnik are there, and there’s more than the previously mentioned films, but I wanted so much more of them. I don’t know if we’ll get a sequel but if we do I really hope we can explore Sonic’s world and characters a lot more.
It’s not going to be the best film of the year, it has problems that do drag it down a bit, but what it does right it does in spades. It’s a fun, energetic movie the shows off Sonic’s speed and characteristics well. There is a level of love and respect for the original source and make sure you stay for the mid-credits stinger. Kids will love and parents and older audiences can have a lot of fun with. While it doesn’t go as far as it should, it still shows respect to the longtime fans without alienating those who aren’t. If you have kids or are a longtime fan I recommended seeing this movie. If you don’t fall into any of those characters I think you can still have a good time if you’re looking for something fun to watch.