Review: Sonic the Hedgehog
PLOT: Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is a super-powered blue hedgehog from an alternate dimension hiding out on earth to hide from those who want to harness his super speed. When he loses his magical golden rings, which allow him to travel between dimensions, he turns to a small-town cop (James Marsden) he secretly idolizes for help.
REVIEW: Months back, when the first trailers for SONIC THE HEDGEHOG dropped, people went nuts when they saw the redesign of, what it turns out, is a pretty damn beloved character. The studio was so taken aback they made the unprecedented move of giving him a total, costly, redesign to bring him closer to fan expectations, leading to a release date delay. Turns out, SONIC has a pretty massive following who demanded the character look right on the big screen and having seen the finished film, the redesign proved to be a savvy move, with this big-screen adventure likely the crowd-pleasing kick-off to a profitable franchise for Paramount.
This is a pretty damn solid family adventure. I must admit my knowledge of the character is limited to the old games I played as a kid on Sega Genesis, so if you’re looking for a review that’s gonna discuss the character’s mythology and whatnot, well – this ain’t it. But, I can say as a regular movie fan, I had a pretty good time with this, thanks mainly to the excellent CGI, jaunty pace and game cast.
Ben Schwartz (iconic for playing Jean-Ralphio on “Parks & Recreation”) is ideally cast as Sonic, with him having the right energy to play what’s supposed to be an ambiguously adolescent hero, without being too…much. With the wrong person voicing him, Sonic could have come off as grating, but Schwartz makes him fresh and funny while also maintaining a certain innocence that doesn’t just make him into a walking joke. He’s not dropping constant pop culture references and seems like a fully fleshed out character in his own right. Similarly, James Marsden is well cast as the nice-guy human cop helping him out. We know he’s a good dude because he has a beautiful veterinarian wife (an underused Tika Sumpter) and an adoring yellow lab, and he’s got the same vibe as a guy like Paul Rudd does – he works as the nice guy without getting maudlin or sappy.
All that said, the guy who makes SONIC THE HEDGEHOG worth watching for those who might be a little old to get too excited about another video game-turned-movie is Jim Carrey as the baddie, Dr. Robotnik. Carrey’s been doing his own thing for years and, since DUMB AND DUMBER TO in 2014, that muse hasn’t pointed him too strongly towards the mainstream. This is his big commercial comeback in many ways, with him as zany as he used to be in his nineties heyday, with Robotnik similar to his Riddler from BATMAN FOREVER, albeit given a bit more of an edge (or at least as much of an edge as you can get in a PG-rated family film). Carrey seems to be having a blast, and it’s a smart piece of casting, with it a good way to introduce him to younger viewers who may not be familiar with his stuff, while also pleasing their parents, who likely grew up back in the days when Jim Carrey was the man. He looks more-or-less the same as he did back in the nineties and hasn’t lost a beat. It’s nice to see Carey being the rubber-faced funny guy again. He hasn’t been this animated since – I dunno – ME, MYSELF & IRENE?
As far as complaints go – here’s my big one. As fun as it all is, at the end of the day there’s nothing particularly original about SONIC THE HEDGEHOG. The premise has been done before (in fact, Marsden played a very similar character in HOP) and, considering how fun the alternate dimensions Sonic can travel to seem to be, setting the whole thing on earth is a little tepid. Still, it’s energetic, with a good, pumping score by Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) and a quick pace that guarantees no one ever gets bored. Kids and Sonic devotees will probably love it, and even for regular viewers, it’s a pretty good time. Perhaps the sequels will a little crazier, but I gotta say, Sonic’s first big-screen adventure isn’t half bad.