Ben Schwartz as Sonic the Hedgehog
James Marsden as Tom Wachowski
Jim Carrey as Dr. Ivo Robotnik, aka Eggman
Tika Sumpter as Maddie Wachowski
Adam Pally as Billy Rob
Directed by Jeff Fowler
Sonic the Hedgehog review #2:
Detective Pikachu, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Super Mario Bros. The list of film adaptations of video games goes on and sees a range of strong efforts to true crimes against both film and gamer communities, and the latest comes in the form of Paramount Picture’s attempt to bring Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog to life and surprisingly, the film mostly succeeds.
Featuring one of the most notoriously horrific starts to its marketing campaign featuring a drastic change in design for the titular blue speedster, the film had a major hurdle to clear aside from every other aspect such as humor, story or writing. When a second trailer debuted seven months later, three days before its original release date, fans went wild for the redesign, which brought the character’s look back to the video game source and had a light and exciting tone and helped turn the tides for many viewers. For myself, I was still on the fence, as the humor still felt pretty forced and aiming for jokes younger modern viewers would enjoy versus all-ages bits that would connect to longtime fans of the video game series.
With this, I went into the film trying to keep my mind as open as possible given my love for those involved and the character himself and I was happy to find that it was a surprisingly fun romp that surpassed my expectations. The film follows the titular character as he hides out on Earth, longing for company and being forced to go on the run with local sheriff Tom Wachowski when the government learns of his abilities and sends the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik after him.
As an origin movie goes, it feels pretty routine in its storytelling, with the stakes feeling pretty low for its main characters and playing out rather formulaic in working to set up potential sequels, but as a video game adaptation, it works fairly well. It keeps the story pretty simple for fans of the extensive Sonic mythos while also acting as a good intro to newcomers and features a few exciting, albeit rushed, teases for what the future can explore, which also proves a real problem. Should the film have chosen to actually explore certain elements, including his home world he has to leave behind to head to Earth for his own safety, versus introducing them and tossing them to the side just as quick to get to the next punchline or action sequence, the story would’ve been a lot more compelling and exciting to watch than the mildly intriguing adventure that we get.
Nailing the right tone in a video game adaptation is just as important as translating the source story itself and that’s one of the areas Sonic truly succeeds. Though the humor doesn’t always work and feels aimed at low-hanging fruit or jokes tailored strictly for younger viewers, it does carry the lighter tone and quick-witted nature of the games and even cartoon series that is key to the character. The filmmakers also throw many notable nods and jabs at its source material and competing characters, including a few jokes pointed towards a certain mustached plumber.
The film’s two greatest assets come in the form of the casting of Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik and Ben Schwartz as the titular hedgehog. Carrey, in a rare antagonistic role, proves he hasn’t lost a step in the comedy world as he steals every scene he’s in with his over-the-top and deliciously hammy delivery of dialogue for the iconic villain. Schwartz brings all of the charm and heart to Sonic while also proving to be equally as quick-witted and thrilling to watch as one would feel while playing any of Sega’s iconic games featuring the character.
While Detective Pikachu stole the show last year with its visual work on the various Pokémon and set a ridiculously high bar, this film does well to come close to that bar as the design work on its titular hero proves to be a work of art as he remains very close to his look in the games and great to look at. Most of the visual effects are also impressive to look at, including Sonic’s home world and the iconic golden rings he uses to teleport to various areas, but there are the occasional questionable effects including Robotnik’s drone eggs, which feel very lifeless and artificial rather than believable practical threats.
Overall, I really had low expectations going into this adaptation of the iconic Sega character, and yet Sonic the Hedgehog proved to be one of the happiest surprises I’ve experienced in a theater. Though it doesn’t break the video game curse in the way last year’s adaptation of a Nintendo franchise did, it still proved to be a funny, thrilling and very entertaining effort that is far better than it has any right to be and I’d be very interested in seeing the franchise continue.