Sonic the Hedgehog Movie Review — Joyful Genesis
Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun, silly romp that is made better by performances from Jim Carrey and Ben Schwartz.
There’s been so much noise surrounding the Sonic the Hedgehog movie over the past year that it’s almost strange to have the film now actually hit theaters. Following one of the biggest pre-release controversies for a movie that I can ever remember, I often wondered in the lead up to release if the pay off for Paramount’s extra work on Sonic’s design would be worth their trouble. After finally seeing the movie, I can wholeheartedly say that it was the right move to make and the final result is much better because of it.
Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t going to be an Academy Award-winning film like a gem such as Suicide Squad, but it is a fun popcorn flick to go see with some friends. While not every joke in the movie always lands and the plot is incredibly straightforward, Paramount’s adaptation of the Sonic video games to the big screen largely pays off even though it probably shouldn’t have. The end result is one of the better video game movies that we’ve ever had, even though that’s not a very high bar to clear.
Likely the blandest part of Sonic the Hedgehog comes with how the story is presented. The setup is essentially that Sonic, who isn’t originally from Earth, comes to our planet after running away from his original homeworld. Living amongst the residents of Green Hills, Montana, Sonic hides himself away in the area for fear of being found by humans and what they would inevitably do with his powers. Or course, Sonic does accidentally end up making himself known which leads to the nefarious Dr. Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey, chasing down our blue hedgehog friend across the country. It’s a very straightforward plot and is one that doesn’t borrow a lot of ideas from the video games, either. Still, considering the fact that we’re working with an overall story that deals with an animated version of Sonic coming to our real, human world, it could have been a lot worse.
I think the main thing to keep in mind if you’re an older Sonic fan (someone who has been playing the games since the 90s) is that Sonic the Hedgehog is through and through a movie made for kids. Since I don’t have children of my own, I actually haven’t gone to see a kids movie like this in the theater in quite some time. The opening few minutes of the movie I actually found to be awkward because I was heading into this expecting it to be a movie aimed at me — someone who grew up with Sonic. If you’re going into this movie planning to pick it apart, you surely could and that’s because you’re probably two decades older than the audience that it’s intended for. The kids in my theater were laughing throughout the runtime of the film and that made me happy.
Still, just because it’s aimed at younger audiences doesn’t mean there’s no enjoyment to be had for everyone in Sonic the Hedgehog. The movie is full of Easter eggs that longtime Sonic fans should be able to spot throughout and there are some legitimately funny gags. One recurring bit dealing with Olive Garden actually had me laughing pretty hard even though I’m not really certain why — it was a really stupid gag, honestly. Ben Schwartz, who also voices Sonic, brings a lot of life to the character and really keeps the movie feeling fun at all times. While the overall tone of the film is definitely aimed for kids, those who have played every Sonic game since 1991 will find a lot to like as well.
Then there’s Jim Carrey’s rendition of Dr. Robotnik, which is largely a major benefit to the movie. Carrey, who hasn’t really played a role like this in quite some time, is clearly having a ton of fun with the character and I couldn’t help but chuckle in almost every instance he was on the screen. I’ll admit, a large part of that is just because I’ve grown up watching his movies, but his rendition of Robotnik is also just a joy to behold.
That said, I do think Robotnik is one of the more hit-and-miss parts of the movie. Carrey clearly ad-libbed a lot of the lines that ended up being in the final cut and because of that, not all of them end up landing just perfectly. When you bring someone like Carrey into your movie, you definitely want them to play fast and loose with the character because that’s kind of how he operates. At the same time, it can lead to instances where lines that weren’t written in the script can end up falling really flat compared to every other line around it. This only happens a couple of times with Carrey’s Robotnik, but some moments of his character were more awkward and unfunny than they were laughable.
By far the weakest element of the movie comes by way of James Marsden and his character named Tom Wachowski. Marsden’s character ends up befriending Sonic in the film and the two are essentially the co-protagonists throughout. Marsden doesn’t do a bad job with what he’s given, but Tom is largely just a bland character. In a movie that is so overwhelmed with high-energy performances from Carrey and Schwartz, Marsden playing a character that’s merely supposed to be the straight man just isn’t that exciting.
I also need to touch on the 800-pound gorilla in the room which is that of Sonic’s character design. I actively asked myself when walking out of the theater if the changes that Paramount made to the character truly resulted in a better film and my resounding answer was yes. If this movie would have had the original look of Sonic that was planned, I truly think my overall opinion on Sonic the Hedgehog would be drastically different. This is a fun movie, yes, but the positives wouldn’t have been able to make up for that terrible Sonic design. Even though I have ironically been a proponent of the original, demonic-looking Sonic, that’s just because I like to operate on that chaotic neutral energy. The final Sonic character model is excellent and I endlessly want to praise both Paramount and director Jeff Fowler for making sure to get this right.
This also might be a weird comparison, but I got major Iron Man vibes while watching Sonic the Hedgehog. Not only does it open with a Marvel-esque Sega logo that shows off tons of the publisher’s famous games (shoutout to Kazuma Kiryu) but the ending scenes of the film plant seeds for the future of the Sonic Cinematic Universe. I’m not sure that a Sonic the Hedgehog film universe is something that I would have wanted 5 years ago, but after seeing how this movie played out, sure, let’s do it. Knowing that future films in this series would likely lean even further into the strange nature of the Sonic mythos, I’m oddly excited at the idea of this movie being the genesis of something even more expansive.
Sonic the Hedgehog is just a fun movie through and through. It might (ironically) be a bit fast-paced and jumbled at times, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome and will put a genuine smile on your face more than once. Even though this might not be something you’ll want to watch dozens of times over, it’s a far cry from other disastrous video game movies we’ve had in the past and is absolutely worth going to see in the theater if you’ve been a fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog character for quite a long time.