“Sonic the Hedgehog” stars Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Jim Carrey, and Tika Sumpter. Released on February 14, 2020, the film is about a sheriff who teams up with an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog to take down an evil scientist.
The film features the directorial debut of visual effects artist Jeff Fowler, and it is based on the video game franchise of the same name by Sega. There are many characters that prove themselves to be the fastest things alive, such as Superman, the Flash, and even Dash from “The Incredibles”. From the perspective of a video gamer, the fastest being on the planet is none other than a talking blue hedgehog with an attitude. Since his debut in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog has been beloved by many gamers and modern audiences alike through his appearance in video games, comic books, and cartoons. Even the decline in quality wasn’t able to slow this blue blur down. This year, Sonic will be taking on his biggest challenge yet in order to retain his popularity, and that is starring in his first big-screen adventure alongside a bunch of live-action actors. There were multiple attempts from the people in Hollywood to make a full-length Sonic film, which began in 1994 when they tried to produce a live-action/animated film to market the cancelled “Sonic X-treme” game. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to make it past the development stage with those attempts. That all changed in 2013 when we got the announcement that a “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie was finally on its way. It was originally set to be released in November of last year, but the studio delayed it to February in order to fix Sonic’s design because apparently, everyone is having a phobia of animals being humanoid and/or realistic, including cartoon ones. Thankfully, the recent design we got now was able to calm the nitpickers down. All they have to worry about now is the film itself. The first time I encountered Sonic the Hedgehog was surprisingly not from one of his video games. Shocking, I know. It was actually from a cartoon that I usually watched on Toon Disney when I was little called “Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog”, which aired during the fall of 1993. After that, I didn’t really get into Sonic until I played “Sonic Heroes” on the Playstation 2. Again, shocking. That game, along with the other recent games and cartoons that came after it, made me appreciate the character even more because of his lovable personality and his sense of humor. So I see no reason why I should not take my time to see him take on Robotnik and his robot army on the big screen, especially since the filmmakers worked really hard to get his character design right for the fans. Hollywood was able to create a decent video game movie last year in the form of “Detective Pikachu”, so let’s see if they can do the same with this one.
The story centers on the title character (voiced by Ben Schwartz), a blue anthropomorphic hedgehog who resides in an alternate dimension that resembles Green Hill Zone from the games. He is forced to leave his world behind and travel to Earth in order to escape from those who want to use his super-speed abilities for evil purposes. His reckless actions on Earth caught the attention of the government as well as their new recruit, a wicked scientist named Dr. Robotnik (Carrey), forcing him to hide out in a small town of Green Hills. Now on the run, Sonic will have to cooperate with the town’s sheriff, Tom Wachowski (Marsden), and his wife Maddie (Sumpter) in order to evade capture and prevent Robotnik from using his powers for world domination. If you're wondering why some of those plot elements sound familiar, you’re not alone. This is somehow equivalent to the plot of the 2011 film adaptation of “The Smurfs”. You got the CGI character coming into the real world, you got the husband/wife duo who helps the CGI character, and you got the live-action antagonist who plans to use that character’s powers to take over the world. The similarities are hard to ignore. Unsurprisingly, this is another live-action/CGI hybrid kids movie that offers fast-paced action, pop culture references, and jokes that’ll make the younglings giggle with delight. Usually, these types of films don’t work well with everybody, with most die-hard fans crying foul on them for “ruining their childhood”. That might be the case for “Sonic the Hedgehog”. However, there’s a surprising amount of tolerability in its soul that will make Sonic fans rest with ease. This movie had a difficult journey towards its release, mostly due to the marketing and the issues surrounding Sonic’s original character design, but thankfully, it was able to make its way to the goal ring without losing too many lives in the process. From my personal point of view, the story in “Sonic the Hedgehog” is described as a combination between a superhero origin story for the title character and a road trip comedy that has the characters traveling from point A to point B to recover an important plot device. The story also represents a suitable message about the values of friendship that would surely inspire kids to respect those values in real life. As expected, the story was pretty darn simplistic and some of the dialogue (mostly the jokes) was downright corny. Then again, the source material was also simple and corny, so I guess I can’t complain too much about that. For those who are not big gamers and are expecting the film to have high-quality storytelling, the story can be a big turn-off. As someone who enjoys the games and the character himself, I thought the story was entertaining and cute. It set out to be what it wanted to be like the source material, and for the most part, it succeeded. I can admit that the plot did suffer a bit from its familiar cliches and its inability to delve deep into some of its elements, but like I said before, it had a good amount of tolerability to classify itself as “decent family entertainment”. Like Sonic himself, the film moves at a pretty brisk pace to maintain the kids’ attention spans. It didn’t slow down to take a few pit stops, it didn’t overcomplicate certain elements, and more importantly, it didn’t have too many scenes that were described as “unnecessary filler”. It’s simple and fun for the kids, and it’s enjoyable and charming for the parents. Plus, it works as both a nostalgia-filled adventure for big-time Sonic gamers and a suitable introduction for newcomers who are interested in the games. The cast made a solid effort in their performances, with the highlights being Schwartz and Carrey as Sonic and Robotnik respectively. Schwartz had plenty of shoes to fill when it comes to voicing Sonic. Before him, he was brought to life successfully by the other voice actors since the beginning, including my personal favorite, Roger Craig Smith, who has been voicing the character since 2010. After studying Schwartz’s vocal performance all the way through, I’m glad to say that he did an impressive job at filling in Sonic’s red and white shoes. His deliverance of his jokes and one-liners were on point like the modern Sonic from the recent games, and his mannerisms had the right amount of charisma to resemble the cool hedgehog that we all know and love. Out of all of the Sonic voice actors that I enjoy as of now, I would have to say that I enjoyed both Roger Craig Smith and Ben Schwartz the most for different reasons. I would also like to point out that Sonic’s new design was a stellar improvement over his old design. It definitely resembled the modern Sonic from the recent games, but with a new coat of paint in terms of the textures and the fur. I’m very impressed to see the care and effort that was put into this design, especially after what happened with the original design. As for Carrey, well, it’s Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey from the 1990s in a good way. His performance as Robotnik was easily one of the best parts of the film, ranging from his undeniable charm to his gleefully over-the-top sense of energy. Based on what I saw out of Robotnik (or Eggman) from the games, it’s like this character was made for Carrey. They’re both over-the-top and crazy. A match made in heaven if I do say so myself. I would even say that this is the best performance I’ve seen in a live-action/CGI film adaptation since Hank Azaria’s portrayal as Gargamel from the “Smurfs” films. The action and the humor were also fun enough to keep the film consistently entertaining. The sequences involving Sonic and Robotnik were very amusing, and the humor, although cheesy and childish at times, was able to tickle my funny bones constantly, whether it’s the references from the Sonic games or the references from pop culture. Some people might not appreciate all of the jokes that were presented in the film, but other than that, it works well for both kids and adults.
Overall, “Sonic the Hedgehog” speeds its way past its flawed plot and corny dialogue to deliver a simple and entertaining video game film that honors the title character and the source material’s lore. Not only that, but it is also a respectable and family-friendly introduction to Sega’s popular franchise for newcomers young and old. Thanks to some likable performances (particularly Schwartz and Carrey), its delightful sense of charm, its tolerable story, and its humor, this is another video game film adaptation done right. Like many other kid-friendly films, this one is not going to impress everyone, especially those who wanted deeper storytelling and award-worthy performances in these types of films. It’s another film that wants you to sit down, throw your personal problems out the window, and enjoy. I did those things and guess what? I had a good time watching it. Yes, it had its share of problems, but come on. It’s Sonic the flipping Hedgehog, not “Parasite”. After suffering from a bunch of mediocre video game adaptations from the past, it’s nice to see that Hollywood has finally found a solution to make the genre work. Let’s hope that it continues that trend with “Mortal Kombat” and “Uncharted” when they hit theaters next year.