“Sonic the Hedgehog” Movie Review
Sonic the Hedgehog was directed by Jeff Fowler from a script by Josh Miller and Patrick Cassey, and is the first-ever live-action feature film based on the mega-popular Nintendo video game character(s) created by Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, and Hirokazu Yasuhara. Ben Schwartz (Parks & Recreation) stars as the voice of Sonic, an anthropomorphic hedgehog with super speed, who has been displaced from his home planet after an unexpected attack befalls his mentor, Longclaw (Donna Jay Fulks). Hiding out on earth without much in the way of companionship, Sonic gets quite lonely, finding solace in his observance of the small town in which he lives, specifically as it concerns the local Sheriff, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), who stumbles onto the little blue speedster (losing his world-hopping rings in the process) after Sonic accidentally causes a city-wide blackout which in turn causes him to hide in Tom’s garage. Unbeknownst to both of them, however, the U.S. military has brought in mad scientist named Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey), who seeks to track down Sonic and perform experiments on them to make his army of machines more efficient. Now, Tom and Sonic have to go on the run, rescue the rings from the top of a city building so that Sonic can escape to a mushroom planet, and hopefully not get destroyed by Robotnik and his evil robots in the process. And as they embark on their road-trip adventure, they find that friendship, and what matters most in life, can be found in even the most unlikely of places. This movie also stars Tika Sumpter, Lee Majdoub, and Tom Butler.
This film, needless to say, has been through a fairly tumultuous development process from pre-to-post production. We all remember where we were when the very first trailer for this film dropped in April of 2019 and we all witnessed the horrors that lay within (including, but not limited to, the song “Gangsta’s Paradise” playing over the footage); as a result of the internet’s cries of anguish, Paramount decided that instead of taking the loss on something they already knew wasn’t going to be good and paid the VFX artists to create anyway, they were going to pull a big ole marketing stunt and tell the fans that they were going to re-design the character from the ground up, promising a more game-accurate, family-friendly look for the titular character. Many additional VFX hours and a year’s release date push later, we all bore witness to the work that had gone into that re-design, and while the business practices of Paramount in regards to how they treated their VFX artists for the film are nothing to praise, the design in significantly less garish and will be much easier for children to palette. If only better VFX also meant a better movie.
I have no idea why this movie is getting as high of ratings as it is. It’s not as if the film is entirely unwatchable, but it’s still not good. At best, it’s okay, and at worst, it’s just as insufferable as every other video game movie that brings the character into the one world people never actually want to see them in (ours) to riff off a B-list actor who somehow has nothing better to do with their time. Even the action sequences, few and far between as they are for a movie like this, don’t offer much in the way of innovation or fun; the most interesting they get is when one of them turns into the Quicksilver scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the only reason it’s interesting is because it causes you to think of a different, much better movie. I suppose the high ratings may be a side effect of people thinking that they got a much better film than the one they would have had because of the improved VFX, but this was always going to be the same movie any which way you sliced it. Sure, it would have been more garish to look at, but the plot, script, thin characters, poor story, and ridiculous performances wouldn’t have been any different than they are presented here.
Speaking of those performances, I suppose I should talk about them at some point. Ben Schwartz does what he can bringing his vocal talents to the Sonic character, and truth be told, he does do a pretty good job. In fact, Sonic is the most dynamic and interesting character in the film; the issue here is that the incredibly generic, lazy script is doing him no favors in terms of his dialogue, and none of the situations or challenges Sonic gets put through during the course of the film are in any way specific to him, apart from when Tom shoots him with a tranquilizer so he can’t use his speed for a good portion of the movie, thus prompting the “road trip” aspect. The only time Sonic’s speed actually becomes an important part of the movie is during the final sequence, and even then, there’s nothing about that sequence that matters apart from “Sonic runs fast,” which we already knew was going to happen because they show us at the beginning of the movie.
Regarding the other performances (James Marsden and Jim Carrey), they seem to belong to two completely different movies. Whether or not Jim Carrey’s weird cartoon character antics in this movie work for you will likely be entirely dependent on whether or not you thought he was good in anything that wasn’t Eternal Sunshine or The Mask, but it somehow still feels out of place even in this movie. More power to those who can stand this kind of thing, but Carrey’s antics here make no sense either for who his character is supposed to be, or for the movie itself. Of course, James Marden doesn’t fare much better either, even without a ridiculous third-act dance sequence. Marsden’s character is so thinly drawn, you could have put any unknown actor into the part and they would have done just as good a job. Tom is the Sheriff of a small town who talks to and eats donuts because he has nothing better to do, wants to get out of said small town, and has to learn to love the community he’s a part of; if anyone reading this can think of or conceive of a more generic “cop,” do leave your ideas in the comments below the review. The actor does okay in the role, as thin as it is, but it’s not memorable enough of a performance to say that he “did what he could,” because “what he could” essentially amounts to “anything another actor could have done under the same conditions.”
If I could point to a single positive that this movie definitely has, it is the improved VFX on Sonic himself and in the rest of the film. Everything looks real, regardless of how generic it all is in its concept and design work, and even though Paramount pulling a PR stunt out of bad VFX they paid to have done makes the whole proceeding feel falsely triumphant (because it’s not like they weren’t going to improve the VFX later on anyway), the re-tooled CG is far more palatable than whatever we were supposed to have to look at beforehand. I mean, it still doesn’t make the movie itself any better, and taking Sonic out of his “speed world” only to have him land on our planet is about the dumbest story concept for this movie they possibly could have had, but it’s something to at least give positive voice to when so much of the other positivity surrounding this film seems to be coming from those distracted by those VFX.
Sonic the Hedgehog could be good for kids, and is probably the best family movie out there right now since Frozen II finished its main run long ago and Dolittle turned out to be as awful as it could have possibly been, but any adults unfortunate enough to have seen like ten better kids movies in their lifetimes will just see this as the next in a long time of overly generic films wherein a favorite kids character hops over to earth to stop a mad super genius bent on…and I’m already yawning. Sure, the re-done CGI on the titular character is fine, but it doesn’t make the movie any better, and as hard as Ben Schwartz’s performance tries, none of the characters are particularly memorable. I wish I could be with those who say this is the best video game movie ever made or at least the best in a long time, but the truth is, that’s a super low bar to clear, and Sonic barely makes it across the finish line as a halfway decent entry into that disappointing canon.
I’m giving “Sonic the Hedgehog” a 4.5/10
- The Friendly Film Fan
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Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.