REVIEW: ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ Is A Fast, Funny, Heartfelt Film

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Sonic the Hedgehog

Movies based on video games tend to fall into one of two categories; they either tend to be a surprise hit, like Pokemon: Detective Pikachuor a subpar effort like Super Mario Brothers. I’m happy to report that Sonic The Hedgehog falls into the latter category, even with the uproar that led to the character’s redesign and the film’s release date being pushed back.

Based on the Sega video game series of the same name, Sonic The Hedgehog finds its titular character (Ben Schwartz) being sent to Earth at a young age, where he tries to hide his superspeed from the population of the sleepy town of Green Hills. However, a lonely Sonic runs so fast he unleashes a massive wave of energy from his body, causing a blackout across the Pacific Northwest. Attempting to escape to another world, Sonic runs afoul of Green Hills’ police sheriff, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). To make matters worse, mad genius Doctor Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) has discovered Sonic’s existence and is hellbent on unlocking the secret of his speed, Tom and Sonic embark on a road trip to San Fransisco to find Sonic’s bag of teleporting rings, forging a fast friendship around the way.

Schwartz steals nearly every scene he’s in as Sonic, balancing rapid-fire quips and pop culture references with a surprisingly soulful performance. Sonic is incredibly lonely, having spent the better part of ten years hiding from the residents of Green Hills, and that loneliness has contributed to his hyperactive personality. The little guy just wants some friends. Schwartz manages to walk the line between hilarious and heartfelt without tipping over either side. I never thought I would relate to a speedy blue hedgehog, but I was fairly lonely in my youth and desperately longed to connect with others. Seeing Sonic blitz through a stack of Flash comics reminded me of the days I spent as a teenager in the library, wishing someone would come and talk to me.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Carrey is delightfully deranged and unhinged as Doctor Robotnik. In this film, he returns to the rubbery physicality that served him well in The Mask and Batman Forever. As Doctor Robotnik, he mimics a robot’s movements. His head twists around at a near-unnatural angle and his eyes nearly pop out of his head, underlining the madness of this character. His line delivery is pure comedy gold as he manages to sell you on the “mad scientist who believes everyone is beneath him” demeanor.

Marsden manages to be the perfect foil to both Schwartz’s Sonic and Carrey’s Robotnik, meeting their performances with a raised eyebrow or a dry remark. His character, Tom, feels stuck in a small town and wishes he could make a difference. When Sonic enters his life, Tom gets the chance to help the hedgehog get home. It’s extremely charming to see the two bond and learn from each other as Sonic makes a genuine connection with another person and Tom learns that he makes more of a difference to others than he thinks

What sets Sonic The Hedgehog apart from other video game films is that it manages to lean into the inherent absurdity of its source material, rather than shy away from it. Director Tom Fowler and screenwriters Patrick Casey and Josh Miller understand how absurd the idea of a blue hedgehog who can run at superspeed would be in the real world, and they lean into that, especially with the human characters’ reactions to Sonic. Fowler also makes use of Sonic’s superspeed in several set pieces, including a car chase with Robotnik’s drones and a fight at the aforementioned bar. It’s fun to see how he perceives time differently than others, and how he manipulates the environment to his advantage.

Casey and Miller’s screenplay also avoids another trope that has plagued video game movies, the overreliance on lore. While using the source material is a must for any adaptation, video game based or otherwise, you don’t want to confuse or alienate the viewers who may not be familiar with the games. There are plenty of references to Sonic’s games in the film, but they feel natural rather than bolted on to appease hardcore fans. Sonic’s rings serve a purpose to the plot and Robotnik sports a flight suit similar to the costume he wears in the game.

Sonic The Hedgehog is not only another welcome entry into the subgenre of films based on video games, but it also happens to be a film that both hardcore fans of the Blue Blur and general audiences alike will love.

Sonic The Hedgehog is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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Sonic The Hedgehog
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    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

Sonic The Hedgehog is not only another welcome entry into the subgenre of films based on video games, but it also happens to be a film that both hardcore fans of the Blue Blur and general audiences alike will love.