Sonic Movie Review: Gotta Go Fast… Straight to My Heart

Sonic Movie

It took 27 years af­ter the fan­tas­tic flop that was the Super Mario Bros. film for Sega to bring its most en­dur­ing mas­cot to the box-office. A lot has changed dur­ing that time, in­clud­ing Sega fa­mous­ly bow­ing out of the con­sole mar­ket to be­come a third-party mul­ti­plat­form de­vel­op­er in 2004, which meant work­ing with its one-time ri­val Nintendo. Though Sega and Nintendo are chum­my these days, with Sonic even show­ing up in games along­side Mario and oth­er pro­lif­ic Nintendo mas­cots, the com­pa­ny has man­aged to achieve some­thing that Nintendo could­n’t all those years ago back in 1993: the film based on its flag­ship mas­cot does­n’t suck. Far from it.

The Sonic the Hedgehog videogame se­ries is one with a sur­pris­ing wealth of back­sto­ry. It was rel­e­gat­ed large­ly to the man­u­als be­fore the se­ries went 3D with Sonic Adventure, but there was plen­ty of ma­te­r­i­al from which the film’s writ­ers could have drawn to craft its nar­ra­tive. Instead, they de­cid­ed to ig­nore all of it in or­der to tell a sto­ry that sur­prised me by be­ing eeri­ly rem­i­nis­cent of 1987’s Masters of the Universe. I was just as sur­prised by how that which made Masters of the Universe such a ter­ri­ble dis­ap­point­ment, worked so well here.

Masters of the Universe
It’s a fun flick if you are in the right mood

Much like Masters of the Universe, this Sonic movie takes place al­most en­tire­ly on Earth. However, where it was due to bud­getary lim­i­ta­tions in the for­mer, Sonic the Hedgehog weaves a far more ac­cept­able jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for it into the fab­ric of its nar­ra­tive. Sonic came to Earth to es­cape those who would bend his pow­er to their will; the soli­tary life he leads on Earth, due to the po­ten­tial that it could hap­pen again, gives the sto­ry emo­tion­al depth that you would­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly ex­pect a movie based on a videogame to have.

That’s not to say that Sonic the Hedgehog is a su­per se­ri­ous film. After the first sev­er­al min­utes, its tone shifts to more family-friendly kids’ fare with a sim­ple ad­ven­ture plot to go along with it. Said plot may not be all that faith­ful to the games’ canon, but it suc­ceeds at nail­ing the spir­it of the char­ac­ters re­al­ly well while sprin­kling in lit­tle se­ries easter-eggs and ref­er­ences throughout.

Ben Schwartz voic­es Sonic as a love­able blue blur, with bound­less op­ti­mism and a zest for the kind of life that his cir­cum­stances had kept him from tru­ly liv­ing un­til events are set in mo­tion that bring him out of iso­la­tion and put him at odds with Dr. Robotnik, played here by Jim Carrey in an­oth­er re­pur­pos­ing of the same rubberband-limbed car­toon char­ac­ter he’s been fa­mous for since he hit the big-time with 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. This time he adds some ad­mit­ted­ly hu­mor­ous ro­bot­ic tics to the mix here and there, but over­all this is the same Jim Carrey you know and ei­ther love or hate. That’s not to say that he does a bad job. He plays Dr. Robotnik as a ma­ni­a­cal, ego­tis­ti­cal ge­nius who fa­vors his ro­bots to mankind, and whose as­pi­ra­tions of world dom­i­na­tion – or more ac­cu­rate­ly, hu­man sub­ju­ga­tion – lead him to seek out Sonic so that he might use his pow­er to achieve that goal. Carrey does great with it and seems to be hav­ing a blast in the role; it just felt a lit­tle too fa­mil­iar for my tastes. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Jim Carrey as Robotnik
Jim Carrey is fun again!

The prin­ci­pal cast is round­ed out by James Marsden, who por­trays Tom Wachowski, the sher­iff of the small, sleepy town of Green Hills, Montana. Tom spends his days un­event­ful­ly pa­trolling Green Hills, pro­tect­ing its res­i­dents from speed­ing tur­tles and bagel-thieving ducks, which un­der­stand­ably has him long­ing for some­thing more. The kind­ness that he shows to all crea­tures great and small makes him Sonic’s fa­vorite Green Hills res­i­dent, which puts the two to­geth­er when things go south for Sonic and the film be­comes a road-trip com­e­dy. Marsden and Schwartz have gen­uine chem­istry, and as the film rolls on, Tom goes from be­ing Sonic’s re­luc­tant com­pan­ion to his friend, and even a part­ner of sorts dur­ing the in­evitable show­down be­tween Sonic and Robotnik. It all comes to­geth­er to make a movie that adults can take their kids to see and not be bored by, and one that I think fans of Sonic will en­joy quite a bit, even if it’s not the di­rect adap­ta­tion of the games that they might have preferred.

I can’t rec­om­mend Sonic the Hedgehog enough. Not be­cause it rein­vents the wheel, or even be­cause it sets the bar high for fu­ture video-game movies; it does­n’t. It sim­ply ac­com­plish­es what it sets out to do very well while man­ag­ing to tell a tale with more depth than you’d ex­pect to see in a movie based on a videogame se­ries that fea­tures the an­thro­po­mor­phic equiv­a­lent of The Flash. Sonic the Hedgehog is charm­ing, it’s en­ter­tain­ing, and it’s full of plen­ty of nods to the games for fans. Just be sure to stick around dur­ing the cred­its for some­thing cool that fans will ap­pre­ci­ate, and which sets up a se­quel. Here’s hop­ing that Paramount green­lights one.

Edited by Indigo Altaria

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Life long lover of videogames, writer of thought­ful rants and re­views. Budding video pro­duc­er. Tired of all the bull­spit in media.
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