“For a film that many were expecting to be a disaster following the first trailer, Sonic the Hedgehog’s biggest sin is ultimately that it is boring.”
Video-game movies are a befuddling thing; despite most not being very well liked (or even that successful in most cases), studios just seem transfixed on cracking the code on how to make them work.
Over the years everything from Mortal Kombat (1995) to Max Payne (2008) to Angry Birds (2016) has graced cinemas across the world, yet none left much of a lasting impression. The closest thing to good adaptations has been Paul WS Anderson’s Resident Evil films (which have their devoted fans) and last year’s Detective Pikachu (which was seen by most as ok, but didn’t exactly break any new ground).
This is why the amount of time, money and effort put into Sonic the Hedgehog is rather strange. Sonic is certainly a lucrative brand – it’s been going steadily for almost 30 years at this point – but the decision to essentially start from scratch with his design following negative reactions online, which certainly wasn’t cheap, is a confusing one. So, is the final product really worth all the excess time, resources, and money?
The answer, somewhat unsurprisingly, is no. Sonic the Hedgehog feels quaint in so many ways. It feels like it could have come out during the string of live action/CGI blend family films from the 2000s.
It has the same broad plot as the likes of Alvin and the Chipmunks or The Smurfs: CGI animal/creature meets down-on-their-luck man who ultimately helps teach them about family, all while a villain played by an overqualified comedic actor has a vague scheme that barely registers. In the case of Sonic, we have Tom (James Marsden) filling the role of Jason Lee in the Chipmunks films and Neil Patrick Harris in the Smurfs films. He is a local police officer in Green Hills who is being transferred to San Francisco, where he feels he will finally have the chance to prove himself. For what it’s worth, Marsden does a respectable job with the material; he’s funny and has his charms but doesn’t do much more than is required of him. He’s entirely adequate.
For our villain, we have Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). He fits the mould of David Cross in the aforementioned Chipmunks films and Hank Azaria in the Smurfs, as a comedic actor of immense talent who really shouldn’t be in this film. With that said, he’s quite good!
It is almost unanimously agreed upon that Carrey is the film’s best quality, and rightfully so. He brings exactly the right energy, re-contextualising his expected quirks to fit the villainous role in the film. When he is on screen the film is watchable, which is more than can be said for when he is absent.
For a film that many were expecting to be a disaster following the first trailer, Sonic the Hedgehog’s biggest sin is ultimately that it is boring. Once you settle into the film, and Carrey isn’t on screen, there are long stretches where nothing of interest is happening. This is primarily due to that familiarity to films mentioned previously. It isn’t as if Sonic is elevating the tropes of a typical family film, it merely adheres to them.
What you’re left with is a film that is neither exceptionally good nor exceptionally bad. It falls just below average, simply because nothing of note occurs for large portions of the film.
Truth be told, had they gone ahead with the original nightmarish design the film would probably be infinitely more compelling. As the film progresses and things grow increasingly dull your mind wanders to the thought of what these sequences looked like ten months ago. Sonic’s new design closely resembles the design from the games, which is good, but it is hard to give much credit there seeing as it was the obvious decision to begin with. Still, a film with the original nightmarish design would have been far more compelling from scene to scene, instead of what we have here. It works but nothing about it is interesting.
Ultimately, Sonic the Hedgehog is something you could show to a young child and they’d enjoy it, but if you’re above the age of ten there won’t be much to gain from it beyond Carrey’s performance and an occasionally decent joke.
Director: Jeff Fowler
Writers: Patrick Casey & Josh Miller
Cast: Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, & Jim Carey
Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Takeshi Ito, & Toru Nakahara
Available now in UK cinemas