For kids of all ages… hyped-up on sugar.
Sonic (voice of Ben Schwartz) is a hedgehog from another world born with a “speed force” that bad guys everywhere covet. Unable to keep his ability hidden, he escapes to other worlds using gold rings to teleport vast distances, eventually arriving on Earth. Sharing in the lives of a small town but determined to remain unseen, Sonic accidentally causes a blackout detected by the U.S. miltary… who fearfully call in a morally flexible genius inventor named Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to determine and neutralize the cause. When Sonic’s only chance to escape to another world fails and is less than enthusiastic about being caught and dissected, he enlists the help of local cop Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), whom Sonic refers to affectionately as “Donut Lord.”
There have been some truly awful interpretations of video games brought to the silver screen, from Street Fighter to Super Mario Bros., but there have been a handful of success like Mortal Kombat, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil… all which were subsequently sequeled to death. After the internet cyber-bullied Paramount Studios’ first horrific CG version of Sonic into a complete rework more in line with the known persona, it then fell to Jim Carrey to go full-villain as the film’s eccentric heavy. With an above-board cast, zany characters, and modern effects, can Sonic knock this one out of the park, or are cinemas in for another box office blackout?
From a fleshed-out backstory to a heartfelt-yet-hilarious montage of living a secret life in Nowhere, USA, Sonic the Hedgehog instantly taps into an emotional connection that viewers can’t help but love. Director Jeff Fowler definitely has a flair for visuals — practically cribbing the look for Robotnik’s drones from the caroling muderbots of the “Portal” video game series — but for all the obvious plot points, this mere game-based film is incredibly watchable. With Schwartz’s pitch-perfect vocals coupled with Carrey’s familiar but wallowing-in-evil antics, attempts for this production to go off the rails are held in check by a tight script and attention to detail that yields a predictable but satisfying adventure.
Folks unhappy with the classic antics of Jim Carrey may be understandably turned off by his villainous turn. Sure, we’ve seen all his moves before, but it’s total fun watching a cartoonish bad guy not only self-aware of his eccentricities but fully embracing them; he never doubts his potential and always has a plan for every setback. Lee Majdoub’s Agent Stone is a perfect sidekick/foil, ever the loyal henchman and blindly eager for abuse… simply to get his idol’s attention. Tika Sumpter as Tom’s wife Maddie is perfectly supportive, another positive role model for a family film. There’s a recurring theme of helping those in need where and when you can, and while typical PG fare gets all syrupy on this point, Sonic manages to still feel dangerous and relevant without being vengeful.
It’s too bad everything after the introduction follows typical beats, but there was likely concern that younger members of the audience wouldn’t be able to follow along, something that may change for any sequels. Assuming this film hits — a possibility with nothing else like it in theaters before Pixar’s Onward releases next month — there are plenty of additional end scenes hinting at all the directions a franchise could go. Considering the train-wreck of the original trailer and subsequent backlash, what Paramount Studios has accomplished should be rewarded, but let’s leave the training wheels off and let the hedgehog off his leash next time, okay?
Sonic the Hedgehog is rated PG for action, some violence, rude humor, brief mild language, and being home in time for Christmas.
Four skull recommendation out of four.
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