I know exactly what you’re thinking. Sonic The Hedgehog will be one of those terrible kid’s films that places a lot of value on bad slapstick comedy and not enough on the heart of the film, the one thing that will make or break a film. To everyone’s surprise, I’m here to tell you that Sonic The Hedgehog is actually a good film. It’s light, entertaining, features some excellent jokes and more importantly, it really nails Sonic himself as a character.
Last May, Sonic premiered its first trailer, which was met with so much backlash and ridicule that the filmmakers went back to the drawing board and redesigned the entire character. It’s a true pleasure to say that this has paid off as Sonic strikes the perfect balance of looking like the original video game character and something that really fits into the real world. It’s just silly enough, but the details and movement ground the character nicely.
The story begins with baby Sonic having to flee his home world to Earth after some unnamed bad guys try to catch him and presumably strip him of his super speed powers. After hiding it out in the small town of Green Hills, Montana, Sonic has grown incredibly lonely and, in his despair, accidentally causes a huge power cut that leaves the entire town dark and then some. This attracts the attention of the US government who call in the egotistical Dr. Robotnik to help solve the case. Robotnik would very much like to find the mysterious creature responsible for the mayhem and we can just tell he is up to no good and Sonic must flee Earth before he is found.
From the start, Sonic feels very old school, the kind they simply don’t make anymore. It’s perfectly sweet and very entertaining in a way that’s impossible to resist. The film takes a while to get going and the beginning is easily the most confusing bit. Who are those bad guys? Where did the rings come from? Who is this bird lady and why is Sonic hers to look after? So many questions, zero answers. Thankfully, Sonic quickly settles into a nice pace and rhythm after establishing Sonic’s peaceful, lonesome life on Earth. The story is simple and its simplicity leaves enough room to explore Sonic’s crushing loneliness and his budding friendship with Tom (James Marsden), or as he’s known to Sonic, Donut Lord. The pair might just be the sweetest pair in cinema this year and Sonic is at its best after it becomes a road movie between the oddest couple of all, a blue alien and Donut Lord.
As someone who has never responded to Jim Carrey’s style of comedy, I can also confirm that Carrey is deliciously menacing and bonkers as the mandatory villain Robotnik. It’s a role that’s a little more low-key for Carrey, with only minimal slapstick and more disturbing eye contact and moustache twirling. It’s just the right amount of pure evil and hilarious face twitching to appeal to both the kids and their parents as well as us older, child-less film fans. It’s a shame Sonic falls into the traditional good vs. evil storytelling while other family films bravely explore much richer and interesting themes, but this doesn’t make Sonic bad, just a little average perhaps.
Poor James Marsden makes absolutely no impression here. He brings nothing unique to his role as the everyman Tom, who just accidentally gets mixed up in Sonic’s desperate attempts to escape Earth. Perhaps the script is partly as fault, because as a character Tom is completely blank and void of any interesting personal traits. Thankfully, Ben Schwartz is great as Sonic. He brings the iconic character alive with an earnest voice performance and is even able to give the impression of chemistry between him and Marsden. There are plenty of laughs present, most of them thanks to Schwartz’s impeccable comedic timing.
Sonic never quite manages to become a great family film despite the various good things it has going on for itself. Sonic’s loneliness resonates with audiences young and old and the jokes land, but Sonic never dares to be outrageous or funny enough to really make a lasting impression. It’s constantly entertaining and even heart-warming at times, but it can’t quite break the magic formula of making the film truly memorable.
Despite all the easy criticisms Sonic The Hedgehog might draw, and it is easy to criticise a film like this, this is a very successful video game film. It firmly stands on its own two feet and it’ll keep the younger ones entertained throughout its fairly brief runtime, but it also brings alive a character from our own childhood and with admirable courage and love. It may not be able to tap into the zeitgeist quite as nicely as other recent kid’s films, but it sure is a lovely and sweet film.
Dir: Jeff Fowler
Scr: Pat Casey, Josh Miller
Cast: Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter
Prd: Neal H. Moritz, Toby Ascher, Toru Nakahara, Takeshi ito
DOP: Stephen F. Windon
Music: Tom Holkenborg
Country: United States, Japan
Run time: 99 minutes
Sonic The Hedgehog is in cinemas 14th of February.