Critic’s Note: This was the last movie I saw prior to the pandemic kicking off. I had the whole month of March planned out and was shaken by the pandemic. But as I’ve been planning to get back into work here, I figured this would be the best place to get started.
2019 saw two trailers that gained infamy for terrible CGI and baffling decisions: “Cats” which I previously reviewed, and “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Like the 40th Razzie darling, the “Sonic” trailer was plagued with problems; creepy CGI, Jim Carrey overdoing his shtick, and the odd musical inclusion of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.” But after the release of a second trailer and a delay by the studio, many of the issues seemed resolved. But was that enough to have this movie break the video game movie curse?
Ben Schwartz voices Sonic, who in this version, is a refugee who fled his home world for the town of Green Hills, Mont. There, he causes mischief and observes the residents of Green Hills, including the town sheriff Tom (James Marsden). One day, Tom gets a letter accepting him to the San Francisco Police Department, allowing him to make plans to move with his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Distraught by his friend leaving, Sonic acts out by running fast enough to cause a supernatural power surge. This draws the attention of not only the U.S. government, but also mad scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). After meeting Sonic and crossing Robotnik’s path, Tom and the strange hedgehog go on a road trip to avoid the mad scientist, while trying to return Sonic to his home world.
The cast does a solid job in this movie. Ben Schwartz brings the same chaotic energy that Sonic’s been known for. And James Marsden does an amazing job as well. While this could have easily been a re-hash of his performance in “Hop,” it feels like an upgrade from his other forays in live action children’s films. He has a great character as someone who wants to get out of his small town in exchange for the action and risk of being a cop in San Francisco; and the chemistry he has with Tika Sumpter feels genuine. But Jim Carrey takes the cake when it comes to the movie’s performances. Carrey takes his campy schtick from the 90s and brings it to its prime. Nowhere is this done better than when Robotnik confronts Tom about the abnormal power surge where the two engage in a verbal sparring, in which Carrey and Marsden play off each other’s energy in a way that ramps Carrey up.
While the story follows the CG character/human character formula, it’s not the worst way it could have been handled. There’s nothing new added, but it follows the format well. The story is accentuated by its characters and their chemistry with each other, much like a Marvel film is. The movie feels like a smart translation from video game to movie; with the rings being used for Sonic to travel between worlds, his iconic red shoes being practically useful, and Robotnik and Tails being implemented to set up the upcoming sequel.
When I saw this, all I could think was how this felt much better than it should have been. Video game movies have been gradually improving in quality in the past decade, and this movie is very much part of that trend. While the plot is nothing new, it’s accentuated with solid performances and good translations of the game to the big screen. You can tell that the people who made this really cared about the IP, which is all you can ask for in a film adaptation like this.