Dan's Review: "Sonic the Hedgehog" Defies the Video Game Movie Curse - Barely
Feb 13, 2020 10:41PM
By Dan Metcalf
Ben Schwartz and James Marsden in Sonic the Hedgehog - © 2020 Paramount.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)
Rated PG for action, some violence, rude humor and brief mild language.
Starring Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Lee Majdoub, Adam Pally, Neal McDonough, Frank C. Turner, Natasha Rothwell, Debs Howard, Elfina Luk, Shannon Chan-Kent.
Written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller, based on “Sonic the Hedgehog” by Sega.
Directed by Jeff Fowler.
The track record for movies based on video games is not good. For instance, Rotten Tomatoes has a list ranking them from “worst to first,” and the only ones that creep over the “fresh” threshold (60 percent or better) are 2019’s Detective Pikachu and Angry Birds 2. 2018’s Rampage and Tomb Raider clock in at #3 and #4, on the list with a whopping 51 and 52 percent rating. There are perhaps many reasons why video games are not good source material for movies, but that doesn’t stop studios from trying, which is why we’re getting a Sonic the Hedgehog release this weekend. After getting a lot of negative feedback from fans after the release of the movie’s first trailer last year, expectations were low. The Paramount and Sega folks went back to the drawing board, revamping Sonic with a new face (the overall consensus was that the first incarnation was “creepy”). You can count me in as one of the skeptics, but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised with the result.
Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio Saperstein from NBC’s Parks and Rec) provides the voice and facial motion capture for Sonic, an alien trapped on Earth after narrowly escaping his planet to avoid malevolent forces from exploiting his powers of super speed. Taking refuge outside a small Montana town, Sonic lives a hermit-like existence, watching the townsfolk from a distance, while using his powers to remain invisible. He longs for friendship as he admires the town’s police officer Mike (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie. One night, Sonic accidentally sets off a powerful electromagnetic surge that knocks out half of the western U.S. power grid. The government sends megalomaniacal Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate but Sonic convinces Mike to help him retrieve his bag of magic rings that he uses to teleport anywhere in the universe. Their journey takes them to San Francisco, where Robotnik uses his machines to track them down and a great chase ensues, culminating a final confrontation.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun movie with an endearing lead animated character, complimented by tenuous chemistry with Marsden. The movie is light-hearted and mischievous, without going too far on the potty humor or taking itself too seriously. Ben Schwartz’s voice characterization has just enough sarcasm and sincerity to keep the mood from getting too silly or too epic. Jim Carrey’s portrayal as the cocksure evil genius villain is perhaps the movies’ biggest draw and biggest distraction. His over-the-top performance tends to dominate the film experience with a tedious barrage of his trademark exaggerated physical humor on steroids, hearkening back to his Ace Ventura heyday. It’s an act we’ve all seen before - but if you really want a reminder that Carrey can overdo it, here’s your chance.
Despite Carrey’s proclivity to chew up the scenery, Sonic the Hedgehog is a nice bit of fun that won’t ruin anything for fans of the video game, while remaining accessible to anyone who has never played it. While there are “Easter Eggs” for fans of the game, audiences of all ages will be able to enjoy Sonic the Hedgehog. It may not be the best movie based on a video game, but it certainly ranks in the top three.
"Sonic the Hedgehog" Trailer