It’s here. Sonic did not go so fast to get here in feature film form but he is finally here. After the Internet blew up so much at the original design for Sonic that the studio actually went back and redid the entire movie with a new, less horrific version (release the Nightmare Cut!) we all can finally see if it was all worth it.
I mean, the answer to that is probably no if we’re talking about the grand scheme of things. Wasting this much money on a throw away kids movie about an alien hedgehog who can run really fast is not “worth it.” However, on a smaller scale that’s basically just considering whether an enjoyable movie became watchable because the waking horror hallucination that was the original Sonic was removed and a new CGI Sonic that actually looks like Sonic was put in, then… yes, it was worth it. Sonic the Hedgehog is actually a lot of fun.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Director: Brett Fowler
Release Date: February 14, 2020
There were a myriad of ways this movie could have gone horribly wrong. They obviously got rid of the biggest one with the redesign but that wouldn’t have helped if the movie’s story was painfully bad. Thankfully, the filmmakers keep to the old adage of KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwarz) is an alien hedgehog who has the gift of super speed. When the people of his planet try to capture him for his power he is given golden rings that will allow him to jump from world to world whenever he is discovered. He eventually ends up on Earth but during an intense bout of loneliness reveals his super speed to the world. The government sends the maniacal Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) after him and Sonic must go on the run with his new friend Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) to retrieve his lost golden rings and escape.
The film is basically a buddy road trip movie (replete with bar fight) that just happens to involve a mad scientist, flashy red shoes, and robotic drones. It all just kind of works. The screenplay never gets too caught up in itself, playing it fun and humorous the entire time while just touching enough on the film’s emotional touchpoints of friendship and loneliness to make you actually feel something for the CGI creature on screen. Sonic’s jokes hit for the most part and the slapstick comedy is pretty funny on the whole, including the aforementioned bar fight, which takes a page from the X-Men movie’s Quicksilver scenes.
Marsden is a fantastic straight man to all the insanity going on around him and plays the role with the kind of square-jawed honesty that only a face as good looking as his can pull off. Of course, it’s Carey who steals the show, turning in the kind of manic performance that made him famous and very clearly just having fun. His Robotnik is just weird enough to work and just straight enough to not be annoying. He chews scenery like its an old piece of leather and the banter (yes, banter) between him and Marsden or Sonic is spot on. This is really Carey’s movie and everyone else is just running around in it.
The action is actually pretty solid too. It never goes to overboard with gimmicks and keeps things clean and simple to follow. Sonic’s power seems to conform to some in universe rules and there’s a care chase sequence that would probably be getting far more attention if it was in a more adult film. Director Brett Fowler seems to have an eye for what works. Even more impressively he makes all the video game references fit into the film. Often a weight around other video game movie’s necks, in Sonic the call backs to the games are used surprisingly well. There’s even a “final boss battle” that plays out cleverly into the gameplay of the original series.
Is Sonic some sort of children’s film masterpiece up there with Pixar? No, not all. Carey is hamming it up too much and the story is too trite to claim any true quality but the film is fun none the less. They took Sonic and they made him go fast from point A to point B and if that doesn’t show an understanding of what makes the character fun then nothing does.
The more you think about Sonic the Hedgehog the more stunning it is that it actually all kind of works. We’re not talking Citizen Kane here but the film is fun from beginning to end. It never takes itself too seriously and it knows its target audience is kids and that its main character is a talking, hedgehog that can turn into a ball and destroy a tank. Given the production troubles, the possibility for all the casting to go wrong, and the general track record of video game movies it is a minor miracle that this movie doesn’t suck. It is something else entirely that it’s actually good.