The first video game system I ever owned was a Sega Genesis. Unlike my friends whose parents were fortunate enough to buy them the 8-bit Sega and Nintendo systems, I had to save up birthday day and Christmas money in order to purchase a video game system. By time I pooled enough funds together, the 16-bit system wars were in full effect. I knew getting a Sega Genesis meant I had drawn my line in the sand. I was choosing Sonic the Hedgehog over Super Mario Bros.
Considering that most of my friends had Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), it was if I had chosen to walk around with the scarlet letter around my neck. Frequently outnumbered in the numerous Sonic versus Mario and Genesis versus SNES debates, I often felt like a battered boxer whose gloves where in permanently block position.
My love for the system and its blue running mascot never wavered. In fact, I still have it in a box today complete with frayed controller cords and all. The one difference now is that I can confidently say that the Sonic the Hedgehog movie trumps the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie in every way imaginable.
Sonic‘s New ‘do
Some may argue that this is a low bar to jump, but one needs to consider the hurdles Jeff Fowler’s feature debut had to overcome. Very few people were clamouring for a Sonic film, and I say this as a longtime fan of the video game series. Furthermore, only a small handful of video game films (e.g. Mortal Kombat, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, etc.) are actually good. Then there was the whole visual effects debacle, when fans revolted against the initial character design which aimed for a more realistic look.
In a rare move, Fowler announced that a decision has been made to push the release back three months in order to redesign the character to look closer to the game. While caving to internet discourse has not always paid off for studios, just look at Snakes on a Plane, it was a wise decision here.
The revised look fits the overall cartoony charm of the film. One of the great things about Sonic the Hedgehog is that the film never takes itself too seriously. It is the type of film that gleeful pauses the action just to incorporate delightfully silly moments such as when Jim Carrey’s villainous Dr. Ivo Robotnik gets his dance groove on in his evil mobile lab. Even Sonic himself does not seem too concerned with achieving his mission with any real sense of urgency. He frequently waste time by getting sidetracked by biker bars and novelty attractions.
The Lord of the Rings
Seeing as Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is an extraterrestrial blue hedgehog, one can forgive his insatiable curiosity about life on Earth. Transported to the small town of Green Hills, Montana via one of the numerous magical rings he carries in a bag, Sonic has spent a decade observing humans in secret. Oddly fascinated with the local sheriff and his wife, Tom and Maddie Wachowski (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter), Sonic has one simple rule: if he is discovered, he must use a ring and jump to another planet. Knowing that his power, which he does not fully understand the extent of, would gain unwanted attention, Sonic has been condemned to a solitary life.
Longing to make a real connection with someone, Sonic’s powers accidentally knock out the power across the Pacific Northwest after a moment of frustration. The incident triggers government officials to bring in a high-ranking scientific genius, the aforementioned Dr. Robotnik, to investigate the source of the disruption. As the government closes in on him, Sonic decides to use Tom’s house as a jumping off point to a new planet. However, things go awry and Sonic and Tom soon find themselves on a road trip to retrieve the blue speedster’s bag of rings.
A Scene-stealing Carrey and Mindless Fun
A buddy road movie at its core, what separates Sonic the Hedgehog from other human/animal team ups, such as 2011’s Hop which also stared Marsden, is the fine line it walks. Fowler’s film is full of classic nods to the source material, complete with a “boss level” finale that will bring a smile to anyone’s face who has played any of the Sonic games. This nostalgia is nicely balanced with a comedic tone that taps into modern sensibilities. The film features playful jabs at hipsters, Amazon’s plans to use delivery drones, people’s love of the Olive Garden restaurant and more. Of course, there is also the Jim Carrey factor.
Channelling the brand of physical humour that catapulted his career to stardom in the ’90s, Carrey devours every scene he is in. He is wonderfully over-the-top, which fits perfectly with the outlandish action sequences. Several of which utilize the “he is so fast, everything else is in slow-motion” blend of humour and visual effects that was perfected in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Just as with Bumblebee and Dora and the Lost City of Gold before it, Sonic the Hedgehog continues Paramount’s recent string of nostalgia-heavy, but surprisingly entertaining, family films. There is nothing too in-depth in the film from a plot standpoint, as it unfolds in predictable fashion. Fowler seems far more interested in the buddy hijinks than he is in overall world building. However, there is plenty of goofy humour and action that will have children and adults laughing with equal measure. Sometimes mindless fun is all one needs to warrant running to the cinema for.
Sonic the Hedgehog is now in theatres.