SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
Running Time: 99 mins.
Where Can You See It?: In theaters now
Premise: Cast out of his home world for his own protection, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) has been hiding in small town Montana for 10 years. But, when his loneliness gets the best of him, he causes a nationwide power outage that triggers the interest of the U.S. Government, who sends the wacky Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate. It’s up to local policeman Tom (James Marsden) to help Sonic elude the clutches of Dr. Robotnik.
Behind-the-Scenes: Based on the best-selling Sega video game character from the ’80s-’90s. The film was originally set to be released in November 2019, but when early trailers depicted a more photorealistic version of Sonic, complete with human teeth, the Internet revolted. Rather than grin and bear the taunting and no doubt to protect their $120M investment, Paramount sent its visual effects team back to the drawing board – to completely redesign Sonic to more closely match his video game appearance. They didn’t have much time though – Paramount only pushed the release date back 3 months – from Nov. 2 to Feb. 14. Early box office results suggest the last-minute redesign may have been worth it.
The Good: If the goal of making a Sonic the Hedgehog film was to take the beloved video game character and make him work on the big screen, then consider this a success. Thanks in large part to Ben Schwartz’s pitch perfect vocal work in the role, as well as the appealing character design – there’s a reason Sonic is one of the most popular video game franchises of all time, Sonic proves to be an endearing film character that all kids will likely enjoy and relate to. The casting agent was smart to cast CGI pros like James Marsden (previously partnered with a rabbit in Hop) and master clown Jim Carrey in the lead human roles. Even if the script doesn’t give Carrey much to chew on, he still finds fun in the margins, like when he adds “sless” to a line that ends with “you.” Hey – it’s not much, but us Carrey fans need to take what we can get.
The Bad: The script isn’t up to snuff and could have used the same 3 months the visual effects team got to do some rewrites. The humor consistently falls flat, with bad one-liners and visual gags that don’t even rise to the level of “Dad jokes.” Rather than make the most of the transporting rings mcguffin they have at their disposal, the screenwriters seem content just putting Sonic in the passenger seat for a road trip that takes up half the movie. Such a pedestrian and unimaginative choice, especially for a character with as much visual potential as Sonic. I guess Paramount paid for those extra visual effects by selling air time to Olive Garden? There are several forced and painfully transparent lines of dialogue involving Olive Garden taglines (“when you’re here, you’re family”) and touting the bottomless pasta bowls. This is some pretty egregious product placement, and we don’t even see the products!
Should You See It?: Maybe, but only if you have kids. Even if you’re a giant fan of the game and want to take in some nostalgia, this is strictly kiddie stuff. It definitely sets up a sequel which seems to pave the way for an even more unhinged Carrey performance though, so maybe you do want to get on the ground floor here in case the sequel’s better? Either way, just by default, this has to be one of the better video game adaptations.
Star Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars
Better Than: Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter
Worse Than: Pokemon: Detective Pikachu
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