Sonic the Hedgehog is the story of a powerful blue speedster who was evacuated to Earth in secret as a young hoglet. Now grown up a little, Sonic (voice by Ben Schwartz) finds himself exceedingly lonely as he attempts to remain hidden—something that becomes increasingly more difficult as he develops his running powers. After one particular incident, he catches the attention of one Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) who intends to capture Sonic and harness his power by any means necessary. Sonic thus teams up with local sheriff Tom (James Marsden) as the two go on the run (figuratively and literally) to keep the hedgehog safe.
What works in Sonic the Hedgehog is director Jeff Fowler’s precision in crafting a film for the whole family with a specific purpose: making adults fondly remember their 90s upbringing, and making young viewers laugh and squeal with delight. Nearly everything in Sonic the Hedgehog works. Schwartz’s vocals strike just the right tone as a fast-talking impetuous teenager with equal parts affable snark and charm. Marsden dedicates himself it completely as the grounded character—a noble undertaking considering the material—and helps serve as an audience surrogate amidst the craziness. And driving that craziness is Carrey as he reembraces his iconic status as a living cartoon. He enjoys every minute, syllable, and facial contortion and his joy is infectious. These three leads keep the action and humor in Sonic the Hedgehog moving at the perfect pace.
Audience members unfamiliar with the Sonic franchise, or non-fans of Carrey’s once-prevalent antics, will probably not enjoy Sonic the Hedgehog as much as others. Fowler’s film is a surprisingly thoughtful homage to both the videogame and the comedy of decades past, and so people with less attachment to those elements will likely find this film far less amusing. The only other spot of possible consternation is one under-developed character: Rachel (Natasha Rothwell) as Tom’s sister-in-law who seems to hate him for no particular reason and thus her barbs seem oddly nasty. Finally, the themes and structure of Sonic the Hedgehog are indeed formulaic as it focuses on two individuals discovering friendship, but while familiar, it still works given the intended audience.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a great family film, especially for parents of a particular age and upbringing. As far as video game adaptations go, Fowler seems to have hit the bullseye in terms of creating something that feels fresh and modern but also faithfully recreates the magic of the series. Sonic the Hedgehog succeeds with flying blue colors with what it intended to be.
Recommended if you enjoyed: Detective Pikachu, Sonic the Hedgehog (cartoon)
FINAL GRADE: A
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