Recommendation: Frankly, a little boring. What could have been a wildly fun and bonkers movie going experience, felt like a tired buddy comedy with even more tired jokes. 3.5/10.
IMDB Synopsis: After discovering a small, blue, fast hedgehog, a small-town police officer must help it defeat an evil genius who wants to do experiments on it.
It’s truly surreal that Sonic the Hedgehog—based on the small, blue ball of energy best known for a run of successful video games in the ’90s—is a real movie in 2020. In fact, a big budget, live action movie (reported $85 million) with successful actors signing on with a wide theatrical release. Our titular protagonist is best known for his successful run of the Sega video games, seems both a bad idea for the big screen and a tone deaf attempt at converting IP into success in today’s moviemaking system. And rather than lean into the sheer absurdity of the premise of making a film based around a super-fast, wisecracking hedgehog—and his surprisingly deep lore and canon—the filmmakers released a fairly rote, boring buddy comedy that lacks imagination and heart.
The opening act of the film flies by in exposition and weak world building. Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is from another world and has incredible powers that others will try and steal. So, he high tails it to Earth (via gold rings as teleportation), and ends up in Green Hills, MT. He observes the rural town, keying in on Tom Wachowski (James Marsden, doing his best), the local sheriff whom he affectionately calls, Donut Lord. We find Sonic’s life is safe, but ultimately empty. In an emotional outburst, Sonic discovers his unleashes a new power (lightning) while simultaneously blacking out the entire northwest. With it, brings the sociopathic genius, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to discover the source of the blackout.
Jim Carrey as Robotnik is the best part of thus dull experience. Leaning all the way in, Carrey channels the unfiltered absurdist energy that he brought earlier in his career to Ace Ventura and The Mask. And it’s exactly the vibe that the rest of the movie should be bringing. In a movie clearly built for children (who don’t know the source material), Robotnik serves as both entertainment and a villain so gaudy and despicable that the audience will have no trouble parsing good from evil. No shades of gray in Sonic.
The bad doctor and his army of drones want to capture, exploit and, if need be, kill Sonic to unlock his limitless energy. The do-good sheriff Tom wants to help Sonic, so the remainder of the movie is spent as a cat-and-mouse / road trip buddy film that is neither original, emotionally anchored, or particularly entertaining. The action set pieces (fewer than you’d think) look competent but are straight up rip offs from the best scene in X Men: Days of Future Past. The jokes are tired and the gags run too long—only so long one can beat James Marsden being called Donut Lord. We end up in San Francisco as Sonic and Tom find the aforementioned gold-rings-turned-McGuffin, where of course Robotnik follows and a showdown spans the globe, only to end up in the sleepy Green Hills, MT, bringing our journey full circle and pounding the movie’s lone theme: Home. Without a doubt, our blue protagonist prevails, sending Robotnik away, but not before this budding franchise has set up a sequel.
Is Sonic the Hesgehog the worst action film made? Of course not. Is it the worst video game adaptation? No, by a wide margin. But did we need it? Is it adding anything to the history of cinema or is it a discussion on the current world? Is it even a 99 minute way to forget about your real life problems? No. But this is the problem with a lot of mid-budget studio filmmaking. We’ve strip mined ‘70s, 80s, and ‘90s IP, to see what’ll stick. And since Sonic is really a millennial remembrance, it was watered down to serve the mass market, rather than become a niche piece of film that could have accomplished an aforementioned goal. It’s a movie for no one, enter at your own risk.
MVP: Jim Carrey seems to be having the most fun as he reprises his Ace Ventura schtick, but only as a sociopathic a-hole (but with five PhD’s). He’s the only one fully embracing that he’s in a movie title Sonic The Hedgehog.
Highlights: Very few highlights. A couple one liners land here or there. The very likable Ben Schwartz is trying his hardest. Some unexpected, short cameos from Neal McDonough, Michael Hogan (Col. Tigh!), and Frank C Turner.
Director: Jeff Fowler
Studio: Paramount // Original release date: February 14, 2020