“Sonic the Hedgehog” is exactly what we thought it would be. If the film portended by the “Gangsta’s Paradise” trailer appeals to you, then you will likely see past its flaws. For everyone else, a fresh lick of paint on the titular speedster won’t cover up abject mediocrity.
The film begins with a young Sonic (Ben Schwartz) whose coveted supersonic powers force him to leave his home planet. 10 years into self-imposed isolation in Green Hills, Montana, Sonic accidentally betrays his existence to the government by causing an electromagnetic pulse. With no way to leave the planet after losing his bag of portal-forming magic rings, Sonic teams up with local police chief Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) to travel to San Francisco and retrieve the rings — all while being pursued by manic military scientist Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
To give credit where credit is due, Sonic’s design has astronomically improved from what was shown at the film’s reveal, and the character animation is springy and energetic. It’s worth repeating that the reanimation involved the mistreatment of numerous visual effects artists, but visually, the film gets Sonic right.
Furthermore, Schwartz and Carrey are impeccably cast as the legendary video game rivals. Improvisational comedian Schwartz captures Sonic’s carefree nature, laughing out many of his lines. Jim Carrey does his thing just as well as you’d expect in the skin of a villain who once enslaved an entire solar system to build an amusement park.
The most glaring issue with “Sonic” is its boilerplate plot. That a franchise with five television shows, an Archie Comics series in syndication for nearly a quarter century and countless video games, from “Sonic Adventure” to “Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine” would, in its feature film debut, opt for a boy-meets-alien buddy adventure starring Sonic and some cop is truly bizarre.
James Marsden does his best to play a character with the depth of a tidal pool. Tom Wachowski starts out the film with zero conflict besides deciding whether to live in a big or a small town and zero character flaws. In the first act, he actually says something to the effect of “I just want to save people,” to his perfect wife while scratching their perfect dog in their perfect house.
Why does Sonic meet a random flawless adult? Wouldn’t a child or a young adult have better fulfilled the escapist fantasy of the target audience? “Detective Pikachu’s” Tim (Justice Smith) was based on the protagonist of the 3DS game of the same name, and starts off mistrustful of Pokémon and searching for his estranged dad — he had a purpose and room to grow.
The writing around Tom is indicative of other issues with the lazily cobbled-together script. The emotional conflict in the film is ungracefully shoehorned in. Sonic’s oscillation between play-acting a homerun and bemoaning his suffocating isolation borders on manic-depressive.
Just about every scene and joke feels like one we’ve seen before, as if the film was mercilessly focus-grouped by a committee that included representatives of Zillow and Epic Games, given the inclusion of a blatant house-hunting product-placement scene and Sonic performing a “Fortnite” dance twice.
“Sonic’s” storytelling integrity betrays itself at the beginning of the film. Without saying too much, in the beginning of the movie when all we know about Sonic is that he’s the fastest being alive, he has to run toward something a few feet away and doesn’t get there fast enough.
Sonic isn’t fast enough.
On my way out of “Sonic,” I heard a child say, “That was the best movie I’ve ever seen.” Sonic fans will likely be pleased to see the blue blur up on the big screen, and with good reason. Parts of him are there.
I love that Sonic has white gloves on throughout the film just because he isn’t Sonic without them. There needed to be more of that. Dr. Eggman doesn’t get his red coat, explosive mustache or even his ridiculous name until the very end. His colorful robot minions, the badniks, are replaced by featureless drones, and Sonic’s countless friends are passed up in favor of a 40-year-old all-American boy.
The end teases a better sequel that is decidedly more “Sonic,” which is a bitter shame. “Sonic the Hedgehog” should have begun where it ended and skipped the boring preamble that was its entire runtime.
Disclaimer: WSN was asked to write an article about this film after receiving an invitation from Paramount Pictures to attend an advanced screening.
Email Fareid El Gafy at [email protected]