Sonic has had quite a few ups, downs, and loop-de-loops over the past 29 years, and the official first design of his film version definitely ranks up there with the biggest missteps of the franchise. However, thanks to a quick redesign and a more faithful approach to the character, he actually seems to physically resemble the speedster beloved by all. Thankfully, the similarities to the iconic character are more than just physical.
Ben Schwartz (“Parks and Recreation,” “This Is Where I Leave You”) delivers a fun and energetic version of the blue blur that is right on par with the 90’s cartoons and video games. He has a wit as quick as his feet and a childish personality that feels right at home with the character. The small changes, like the more outsider personality, fit snuggly into the characterization that Sega has been perfecting for decades.
He really is so easy to love, and his charming characterization is the big fat beating heart of the entire film. Meanwhile James Marsden (“Westworld,” “X-Men”) proves that, despite his previous attempts, the human sidekick in this sub-genre of CG creature and human duo road trip films doesn’t have to suck.
He’s earnest and means well, and thankfully is never shown to be an idiot. The same goes for his wife, played by Tika Sumpter (“Get On Up,” “Gossip Girl”). While their screen time together is brief it shows how easy it is for a film to avoid making the human characters so annoying; make it seem like they actually enjoy being around each other.
And who could possibly forget about Jim Carrey (“Ace Ventura Pet Detective,” “The Truman Show”) as Doctor Ivan Robotnik. This whizbang maniacal doctor is without a doubt the best character in the film outside of Sonic. The way in which he beams through each line, dripping with cartoony menace, makes his moments the most manic moments of the film. He’s also the perfect encapsulation of the film as a whole.
Because while the characters are nailed and the re-design works oh so well, the film’s humor has some hits and just a few misses while the plot is shockingly cliched. That’s not to say that the mere presence of a character as charming as Sonic necessitates Oscar worthy material, but the unoriginality of the plot delivered by writers Patrick Casey (“Golan The Insatiable”) and Josh Miller (“Golan the Insatiable”) is genuinely surprising.
While the action never disappoints and the scenes where Sonic lets loose are an absolute blast, the tale of a loner who wants to fit in, find a friend, and teaches his reluctant sidekick something about family is incredibly redundant. There are also moments of product placement that, while expected for a film like this, are shockingly obvious. An early mention of Zillow seems innocuous enough, but then multiple mentions of Olive Garden are so bizarrely in your face that they border on parody. Thankfully, these moments are in the minority.
It’s the individual scenes and sequences of humor within that plot are where the film excels, but it’s hard to ignore something so recycled from other family films of better and worse quality. The jokes here are good, with only a few groan worthy lines here and there. It isn’t Shakespeare and it definitely has its fair share of fart and “meme” gags, but it’s hard not to smile at the childlike silliness that is at the core of the film.
This is the perfect example of a film for the fans. If you’ve ever played a Sonic game or consider the character to be a part of your childhood, then you won’t be disappointed here. Director Jeff Fowler (“Gopher Broke”) and the writers have done an excellent job translating the attitude of this character to the big screen, and while it isn’t very original, it’ll satisfy fans young and old alike. Meanwhile, if you’ve never touched a Genesis and think a Chaos Emerald is some kind of drug, this isn’t the movie for you.
“Sonic the Hedgehog” is a burst of silly energy carried by some energetic performances and a sense of childlike humor and speed. While its plot is shockingly unoriginal at times and the humor isn’t always consistent, it nails who this character is and why so many people love him. It’s a delightful adventure for those who hold the blue blur close to their hearts. It’s hard to ask for more than that. 3.5/5