SONIC THE HEDGEHOG is the live-action feature film from writer/director Jeff Fowler which centers around the insanely popular Sega videogame franchise featuring the character Sonic the Hedgehog. The film stars Jim Carrey as Dr. Ivo Robotnik, Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog, James Marsden as sheriff Tom Wachowski, and Tika Sumpter as veterinarian Maddie Wachowski. To best describe the film, I’ll turn to the official synopsis:
“SONIC THE HEDGEHOG tells the story of the world’s speediest hedgehog as he embraces his new home on Earth. In this live-action adventure comedy, Sonic and his new best friend Tom (James Marsden) team up to defend the planet from the evil genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and his plans for world domination.”
I’m sure we all remember when the first trailer came out and the uproar it caused over the look of Sonic. As people yelled and screamed from behind their computers, I was totally on-board with the look as well as the use of “Gangsta’s Paradise” as the musical choice for the trailer. However, the uproar was so loud and ridiculous that the VFX team decided to redesign Sonic to appease the masses (something that I didn’t agree with since I thought they should own what they created). With a date then pushed back to 2020, fans wondered if SONIC THE HEDGEHOG would end up redeeming itself from the cluster “beep” [this is a family-friendly review] that was the first trailer. Having had the opportunity to check out the film this past weekend, I can say that it not only exceeded my expectations but I found the entire film to be an action-filled, hilarious, and heartwarming flick.
The film opens up with a young Sonic (who is not cuter than Baby Yoda but does have some adorable aspects to it) who, after being threatened by creatures from his home planet due to the power he possesses, is forced to move to another planet for safety. With only a bag filled with coins that allow him to hop from one planet to the other, Sonic takes refuge on Earth in the small town of Green Hills, Montana. We fast-forward a few years to see Sonic embracing his surroundings and the life he has made, but it becomes apparent that he’s lonely but knows the dangers that would unfold if he were to reveal himself. That said, it doesn’t stop him from watching the people of the town from afar and coming up with scenarios of friendships he would have with them – most notably with Sheriff Tom. However, his isolation begins to get the best of him, resulting in an angry outburst that sets off an electric current from within him that shuts down the power in town. With the government concerned over what could have caused this and the suspicious nature of how it happened, they seek out the ruthless genius that is Dr. Robotnik, in hopes that he will get to the bottom of whatever happened.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Tom, who is preparing for a new adventure of his own in San Francisco, comes in contact with Sonic after mistaking him for a raccoon. Surprised at finding an alien species in his house, he shoots Sonic with his wife’s tranquilizer gun, resulting in Sonic passing out and dropping his coins. This opens up a portal in San Francisco (as Sonic comments on Tom’s shirt featuring the Golden Gate Bridge as the rings fall), dropping his coins at the top of one of the tallest buildings in the city. Meanwhile, Dr. Robotnik comes to the realization that whatever is responsible for this power outage is not from this world and begins to hunt for whatever this species might be. Once he comes to, Sonic pleads with Tom to help him retrieve his bag of coins so that he can escape to another planet before being found by Dr. Robotnik. Reluctantly, Tom agrees and thus begins an rip-roaring trip to San Francisco with Dr. Robotnik close on their heels.
I should probably make note that I grew up obsessed with playing Sonic the Hedgehog. I’ve always been drawn to games such as that and Spyro the Dragon, so to see a live-action film of this caliber featuring one of my favorite games was quite a sight to behold. Maybe it’s because I went in with very little expectations, but I found myself excited to go on this journey with Sonic and Tom. I think a lot of this is credited to the writing of Patrick Casey and Josh Miller, as they took great care to make a film that was both appealing to kids and adults, never dumbing things down for the audience but instead engaging with the audience through witty dialogue. Watching Sonic on the big screen reminded me of when I was younger and would play the game in my bedroom or on my Sega Game Gear while on a road trip with my family. I think the nostalgia factor really helped in making this film enjoyable but I don’t think it would have been as successful if the writing and humor wasn’t as exceptional as it was.
In this adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog, my favorite character ended up being Dr. Robotnik. I wasn’t sure what type of performance we were going to get from Jim Carrey, but he embodied the character so well that I couldn’t help but be drawn to his over-the-top villainous performance. Plus, his mustache is outrageous and his duster jacket was so spectacular that I vowed to get myself one someday. One of my favorite scenes actually has to do with Dr. Robotnik dancing in his nefarious lab (situated inside a giant van) while planning world domination. There was even a dinosaur at one point which made my Jurassic Park-loving heart scream with joy! If this movie taught me one thing it’s that I can watch Jim Carrey dance for hours on end. When it comes to Sonic and Tom, they made the perfect team as their playful banter meshed together completely throughout the film. Meanwhile, they actually were able to learn more about themselves through their short time together, providing moments that resulted in the formation of a lasting friendship. As the voice of Sonic, Ben Schwartz couldn’t have been a better choice. His voice leaned into that sweet spot of being child-like but old enough to be aware of his surroundings and the circumstances he has found himself in. Plus, he added a hyper-ness to the role that fit wonderfully with Sonic’s fast-moving abilities. As for James Marsden, his performance as the sheriff in a small town that he grew up in was relatable. His character is a wonderful human who just wants to escape into the wide world so that he can truly help people in need, not realizing that those people are the ones he’s known the longest.
In all, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG is an entertaining and enjoyable viewing experience for the whole family. The themes of friendship and companionship are very apparent from the get-go and carry throughout the duration of the entire movie. I still believe that had the film come out in 2019 when it was originally supposed to it would have been a hit because the animation isn’t the heart of the movie – it’s the storyline and the performances from all the actors. I think there was a lot of hate for the film that was unfounded and I think SONIC THE HEDGEHOG will have no problem, fixed animation or not, in stealing the hearts of movie-goers. This is a film you’ll want to give a chance to when it’s released in theaters on February 14, 2020. Oh, and one more thing, make sure you stay till the end of the credits…