The internet has a tendency to become highly critical of anything, and once something is launched into cyberspace, it is thrown to the mercy of the public eye. After the original design for Sonic (Ben Schwartz), the protagonist of Sonic the Hedgehog was released, and then berated heavily, the negative feedback from SEGA fans and CGI enthusiasts called for Paramount Pictures to rework the design altogether. The result? A more friendly-looking blue-quilled speedster that was more appealing.
After small-town cop Tom Wachowski (James Mardsen) discovers a lightning-fast blue hedgehog who had fled to his rural Montana home, it’s up to him to keep his newfound friend safe from harm’s way by hiding him from the government’s clutches, and more importantly, out of reach from the villainous Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Juggling the doubts of his career and Sonic’s well-being, Wachowski is up for an adventure based on the Genesis game series.
There may have been a reworking of Sonic’s final design, but it’s hard to say if there were any other changes made to the film’s finished product. Screenwriting for a younger target audience is a challenge because of how it presents across the board to anyone who isn’t eight-years-old, as it dulls itself down and dialogue rests on the surface of securing a consistent style. Sonic the Hedgehog flip-flops between the ‘hog himself battling more adult themes, including the crippling weight of his loneliness and at times, death, all the while attempting to stay in touch with the modern-day youth by mixing in ill-fitting references that could have been relevant six months ago. Though Sonic’s catchphrase is “gotta go fast,” the film loses momentum by the end of the second act.
Incorporating elements from the Sonic games, for example, giving the golden rings that players collect a more updated purpose in the film, is smart. Little nods that pay respect to the speedster’s backstory while etching out a new one for him isn’t the most deviceful plan of attack, but it is imaginative. Sonic is very imaginative when trying to gear itself towards today’s youngins and to those who just want to see the iconic character doing what he does best: going fast.
James Mardsen relives his Hop days as Sonic the Hedgehog turns into a road trip film, which, despite the actual drive time between Montana to Wachowski’s destination of San Francisco, California, being nineteen hours and fifteen minutes, it’s said that the entire film takes place over two days. Ben Schwartz displays more range as Jean Ralphio in Parks and Recreation than he does with Sonic, considering that he doesn’t have much infliction to his natural tone. When there is a call for emotion, the emotion is there, but other than that, the flatness of Sonic’s voice means that interest is lost in the main character.
There are so many montages and interruptive sequences that really don’t make sense aside for buying run time, but make sure to cash in laughs from little ones that may get a kick out of a second-rate joke or a slow-motion schtick that emphases just how fast Sonic can move. In favor of the animation, for the most part, the CGI work is detailed and crisp. The masses complained and Paramount listened. The first slowed-down routine is washed away by repetitiveness. The repetition is expected, especially when it comes to Robotnik having his own medley of cut scenes which are usually set to music. The biggest flaw in the soundtrack was the exclusion of Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise,’ which was used in the first Sonic trailer.
Jim Carrey is once again the in-your-face, overdramatized, invasive and exaggerated oddball. Carrey, who has incredible control over his vocal abilities and facial muscles, is not as strong as he usually is when comparing his buffoonery to past performances. For a children’s movie, Robotnik is darker and more aggressive than what would have been predicted.
Stepping aside from the subpar direction and script, Sonic the Hedgehog is classic family fun, and definitely cute. There may be some groans and eye-rolls here and there, but the film hits the mark when channeling childlike wonder. It may be cheesy and immature at times, which is expected, but when peeling back the layers to the core intent, there are lessons to be taken away from this good-natured animated feature. It’s a genuinely silly family-friendly video game adaptation that leaves itself open for more to come. Stick around for the mid-credit scenes.
Verdict: 5/10 – Sonic the Hedgehog approaches a popular franchise from an unsophisticated, fun-loving and childish angle that sets the Sega Cinematic Universe off on a mediocre pace. Sonic is cute, but it taps out at that.