If you asked me 15 years ago what I would’ve thought about a Sonic the Hedgehog movie coming out, I would’ve been excited beyond belief. I was admittedly a pretty big Sonic fanatic during my grade school days, and though I left that life behind, it’s still a part of my childhood. Now in my early 30s, the idea of a Sonic movie comes across with a more skeptical approach. Luckily, Sonic the Hedgehog from Paramount Pictures manages to hit the sweet spot for making a pretty enjoyable film. With the less than humble beginnings of this movie’s marketing, it seems that director Jeff Fowler managed to make a miracle happen.
The story of Sonic the Hedgehog is definitely a mixture of the various source materials. It also happens to create something new in the process for the hedgehog’s big screen debut. The blue hedgehog, Sonic, comes from a world where creatures like him are commonplace; except Sonic isn’t like the others. Sonic not only has super speed, but he has a unique energy that allows him to unleash an electromagnetic pulse. Denizens of his world wish to harness this power, so a young Sonic is advised to keep his powers a secret. Things go south pretty quick, and Sonic is forced to use a power ring as a gateway to another world to escape his pursuers. This leads him to the planet Earth, where he lands in Green Hills, Montana.
Sonic, played by Ben Schwartz, spends ten years living among humans, but he keeps himself hidden. Of course, he has fun with some of the locals, becoming known as a sort of cryptid figure like Bigfoot. Despite spending his life in hiding, he still watches from the shadows, bonding with people from a distance. Unfortunately, since they don’t know of his existence, it’s not long before the loneliness kicks in. This feeling eventually kickstarts the use of his EMP power, which causes the US Government to investigate. Feeling like they have no other choice, they unwillingly hire the robotics genius, Dr. Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey.
The movie soon becomes a cat and mouse game, forcing Sonic to team up with the sheriff of Green Hills, Tom Wachowski, played by James Marsden. Tom and his wife Maddie were just some of the small town residents that Sonic felt an attachment to. Thanks to a well placed tranquilizer dart, Sonic and Tom’s paths are firmly crossed, forcing them to work together to avoid Robotnik’s torment. The story is simple, but it’s a pretty effective buddy film, even if one of those buddies is an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog. Despite the impending danger for the two heroes, the movie never loses it’s fun and charm. Even the darkest moments come across lighthearted, filled with fun jokes and visual gags to make you laugh.
One of the best elements of this movie is the use of Jim Carrey, who seems like he was able to cut loose and be his 90s self again. Jim Carrey wouldn’t have been my first choice to play the evil genius, but he kills it. His superiority complex makes him steal every scene he’s in, whether it’s roasting military officials or undermining his underlings. There’s even one moment that just feels so classic Jim Carrey, that one can’t help but have a smile on their face. It’s clear that Fowler wanted to capture that pure Jim Carrey energy, much like Carrey’s Robotnik wants to capture Sonic’s pure energy.
While the villain is fun and lively, what does that mean for our protagonists? Ben Schwartz manages to do a stellar job voicing Sonic, capturing the character’s “cool dude with attitude” spirit perfectly. His dynamic with Marsden’s Tom is incredibly enthusiastic, and helps to keep the momentum of the film’s pace afloat. The two develop a bond that make for a heartwarming friendship, making the characters ones you want to root for. Part of the charm comes from the updated visual design for Sonic himself, thanks to lead artist, Tyson Hesse. His design helps to convey emotions easily, truly selling the feelings from Schwartz’ performance. If we were stuck with the original design, this formula wouldn’t have worked nearly as well.
While Sonic himself looks rather cute and charming, the CGI of the movie does feel a bit unfinished. There are moments where it feels like the effects are simply not part of the scene. This mostly comes from various long shots, which unfortunately makes the CGI more cartoonish at times. Action shots tend to suffer as well, though they move fast enough to make it less of a bother. Despite having these moments, the movie still manages to conquer them by keeping things entertaining. It also helps to remember that at its core, this is a kids movie, even if a lot of the jokes are far more suited for adults.
Surprisingly, the jokes have a more adult tone than one would probably expect. There’s humor relating to drugs, alcohol, marital problems, and more that may or may not go over a child’s head. On top of that, the movie is absolutely full with pop culture references. It’s actually almost absurd how many pop culture jokes are crammed into the movie, making some of the jokes feel a little uninspired. Luckily, the delivery for many of these lines makes up for it, helping them land in an unconventional setup. While there are definitely funnier movies, Carrey’s performance combined with the joke delivery lift the movie higher than one would expect.
Now, being a video game movie, there was a high chance of a lot of references to the source material. The first stage of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, Green Hill Zone, makes an appearance in both Sonic’s world and as the name of the fictional Montana town. There are plenty of moments referencing specific imagery, including a certain popular meme. Fans of the series may even recognize a couple songs in the movie, one more recent, another from the past. It’s to be expected, but it will definitely reward longtime fans. There are definitely bigger references in the film, but we won’t want to spoil them here.
Honestly, the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, on paper, shouldn’t work. When audiences saw the first preview, it was looking like that would be an absolute fact. It’s my pleasure to say that the Sonic movie is much better than one would expect, completely exceeding expectations. The cast is fun and engaging, and the jokes manage to keep the laughs coming. While the CGI isn’t perfect, it does well enough to keep the action running nonstop. Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t just a good film for fans; it’s a good film for the whole family. With the momentum of the blue blur, it’s highly likely that this will be the start to a series of films.