Saturday, February 22, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Directed by: Jeff Fowler
Notable cast: Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter

Of all the video games in the world to adapt, Sonic The Hedgehog seems like a particularly tough nut to crack. Much like with the early 90s Super Mario Brothers, Paramount had a fairly abstract concept to work with. Sonic was designed to be the antithesis of Mario in every way, fast, edgy and full of that ephemeral nineties “’tude.” They went with the CG-character-human-sidekick-road-trip-movie, and while, admittedly, on its head it’s the most boring possible choice, doing something so generic but reasonably well ends up making a solidly average film. And compared to most other video game film adaptations? A mediocre film is practically Citizen Kane.

Now, before we get into the review proper, it is worth noting the very odd path that this movie took to the big screen, more specifically how its release was delayed for months to bring Sonic’s design more in line with fan expectations. I personally find this to be an exceptionally dangerous precedent for several reasons, chiefly by choking the singular artistic vision in the name of chasing the approval of an audience that, by and large, has proven to have no idea what they want… admittedly, seems to be a good change. The original design did have an uncanny valley issue, especially in his human teeth, and the more game/cartoon-like creature we’re provided here is a marked improvement.

Sonic is an orphan anthropomorphic hedgehog living with an owl, like one does, racing around his homeworld. One day the two are attacked by echidnas (or at least the Sonic franchises equivalent thereof) and Longclaw the owl is killed. She gives Sonic a pouch of magical, planet traveling rings and sends him to Earth, telling him that if he’s ever discovered he must move on again. James Marsden is the small-town sheriff of Green Hills, Tom Wachowski, who wants more excitement in his job. After Sonic has an emotional outburst that leads to him running faster than ever before and causing an interstate power outage, the US government sends in quirky but brilliant Dr. Robotnik to figure out what happened. Through happenstance, and a tranquilizer dart mishap, Sonic’s rings are sent to San Francisco and he needs Tom’s help to get there.

 From here shenanigans ensue, including the inevitable scene where they start a bar brawl and everything passes in the most generic way possible (this movie even begins on an “I bet you’re wondering how I got here” voiceover).

The biggest boon to this movie is, of course, Jim Carrey as Robotnik. In a movie with a computer-generated blue critter, he remains the most animated part. He dances, he’s a jerk, he’s completely unleashed in a way you haven’t seen since the Ace Ventura days, and it’s hard not to miss.

Look, more of the jokes in this movie work than you’d ever expect, but regardless this does remain an extremely by the numbers family film. It’s successful in the sense that it colored entirely inside the lines, and was an entertaining way to spend 90 minutes.

Written By Sean Caylor

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