In the early nineties, Sega yearned for a flagship series to do battle with Nintendo’s Mario franchise, experimenting with all sorts of different character designs, hoping to find the right face to serve as their official mascot. Whether it be a lookalike of Theodore Roosevelt (which subsequently become Dr. Robotnik) or a rabbit, none of it was right for what Sega was after. It was then that they created Sonic the Hedgehog, a speedy blue blur that became an icon in the gaming industry, with beloved (and not so beloved) games on the shelf of nearly every gamer.
It was only a matter of time until a company (in this case, Paramount) threw a truckload of gold rings at making a blockbuster film. Mario had a film, after all (which everyone loved), and countless other critically acclaimed movies have come from mining the gaming realm for ideas (the opposite is true).
No matter what I say about this film, Sonic the Hedgehog was a success for Paramount, a company that really needed a fresh start in 2020 after a decade that had been less than ideal from a box-office standpoint. It wasn’t easy, however, in-fact, the film needed some serious course correction in the early-going, including a overhaul of the Sonic character design altogether. Sonic the Hedgehog cost a little less than one-hundred million to create, but managed to gross over three-hundred million at the worldwide box-office, despite having the rug pulled out from under it with the Corona virus outbreak, which resulted in a postponement (or, perhaps, cancellation) of its release in China.
Sonic is a character I have never had a lot of emotional attachment toward. I love mascot titles like Ratchet & Clank or Crash Bandicoot, for instance, but no matter how many times I tried, I never enjoyed playing Sonic as a whole. Maybe that’s something I will try to rectify again later on for Mashers Club, but, for now, I went into Sonic with an open-mind and not a lot of expectation.
The action-adventure comedy film sees Jeff Fowler in his feature directorial debut, with a screenplay written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller. Meanwhile, the cast includes Ben Schwartz as the voice of the titular character, Jim Carrey as Doctor Robotnik, and a human-cast (because Carrey is not) comprised of James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, and Neal McDonough. The cast and crew involved have been around, but I would go ahead and say most of them I am only vaguely familiar with, whereas the main selling-point is the Sonic character and Jim Carrey back in a comedic and eccentric role.
The film has a simple and straightforward enough concept. Sonic is an interplanetary hedgehog who’s forced to flee his own planet and seek refuge on Earth. Everything was alright at first, with Sonic laying low at a small city and watching the lives of others from afar. However, the loneliness gets the better of him, he has a temper-tantrum that draws a lot of attention to himself, caught in the cross-hair of that is the sheriff of Green Hills, a small-time cop named Tom who hopes to move to the city and protect people on a bigger scale. During a scuffle, Sonic loses his rings, which he needs in-order to teleport off from Earth to a new planet. Sonic befriends Tom, and they work together to try and find the missing rings. Meanwhile, the government deploys a mad and crazy scientist named Doctor Robotnik to try and procure whatever caused the disturbance at Green Hills.
I don’t think many people went into this film expecting a classic film nor were they wrong not to have that expectation. Simple and straightforward really does apply to this film altogether. This isn’t meant to dissuade you, but to suggest that this isn’t a film that reinvents the wheel. And yet, there is fun to be had.
The jokes don’t always land, but the kinetic energy and charm often pulls through, and the sentimental story-line can be predicted beat-by-beat, but it comes together for a feel-good film. It is saccharine and it is paint-by-the-numbers, more often than not, but the dazzling special effects, attention-to-detail, and performances are enough to help the film earns its keep.
As prefaced, I am not even a fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, but I still had nostalgic eyes at the end-credits, and smiled at the many references that find themselves embedded in the narrative. The special-effects are explosive and completely computer-generated, but they succeed at feeling like a Sonic cut-scene brought to life, even allowing a little bit of “Quick Silver” style fun to be had at the baddies’ expense.
The performances are charming and enjoyable. The best, in my opinion, coming from the enthusiastic and energetic Jim Carrey, whose zany and random scenes underscore how they kept it light with the film mostly from start to finish.
As I said, Sonic the Hedgehog is already a box-office victory for Paramount, but I would also call it a minor-win as a film and as a video-game adaptation, not saying much, but I might even call it my personal favorite in that category (ahead of Detective Pikachu). It doesn’t leave a large impression, but it’s a light-heart, family film that kept me entertained at a brisk pace. I would recommend it.