After months of controversy over the speedy protagonist’s design and fears of yet another video game movie flop, Sonic the Hedgehog finally dashed into theaters. The filmmakers listened to the fans and pushed its release back several months to redesign the character to appear closer to the source material (and potentially clean up some other elements that may receive fan backlash such as music choice), but was it enough to make Sonic fans happy with the final version of the film? Is Sonic the Hedgehog the step toward great Hollywood video game movies that audiences are clambering for? Let’s zoom in to find out if the final result is as super as Super Sonic or if it’s worth thinking “that’s no good!” Be advised, you might want to see the movie first before reading much further to avoid spoilers.
First off, Sonic the Hedgehog is a hilarious film. I was surprised at how funny it actually was. Humor meant for both kids and adults is used throughout. Kids will laugh out loud at many of Sonic’s silly antics and sarcasm. For the older crowd, there were even jokes used that you wouldn’t expect to work so well, like Dr. Robotnik commenting on taxes or another character joking about getting their steps in on their Fitbit. One of my favorite lines is when Sonic tells Tom to fight the robots by “just curling up into a ball and smashing it with his body.” If you’re looking for a good laugh, you’re sure to find it with this movie regardless of your age.
Jim Carrey is back and is in full 90’s Ace Ventura / The Mask / Dumb and Dumber form. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen his unique comedic talents, so it was a relief to see it once again. His over-the-top acting holds much of the movie afloat. Other performances, such as James Marsden as Tom or Tika Sumpter as Maddie, are also great. However, the other especially outstanding performance aside from Jim Carrey is Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog. Not only does he sound a lot like the character in the video games, but he perfectly captures his quirks, overconfidence, sarcasm, and overall personality. He was perfect for the role.
The film’s action sequences are a ton of fun and extremely exciting. Whether Sonic is in a bar room brawl or smashing evil robots, it’s entertaining to see. His super speed is showcased in a lot of fun ways, some of which we’ve seen in a certain superhero movie, and others that are more unique. Either way, they’re used creatively to add a sense of uniqueness to the action. Super speed can be difficult to showcase in film without it feeling like the same effect over and over again, but they change it up enough to keep it feeling fresh. Each setting also adds to the action. There are fights that happen during a car chase, while running down the side of a building, and in a kitchen. Each location adds something different to the fight.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of emotion included in the film. There are several heartfelt moments that I would not have expected to see, like Sonic adding “make a real friend” to his bucket list or a child being the one to give Sonic his iconic red shoes. Even in the opening scene, we see him forced to say goodbye to his parental figure. Sonic doesn’t typically get any character development in the video games. He’s usually seen as the heroic one from the get-go. In the movie, however, he’s given some nice character development the more he befriends Tom and the more he realizes he should stay to protect what he cares about instead of running away. Adding to these heartfelt moments are the emotion seen in Sonic’s realistic facial expressions (thanks to the new design) and Ben Schwartz’s incredible voice acting. I congratulate them on how much emotion they were able to add to the character.
Not only does Sonic’s redesign look fantastic, but the rest of the special effects are great as well. Each of Dr. Robotnik’s robots, each explosion, and the lightning shooting from Sonic while he runs all look incredibly realistic, yet just as cartooney as the source material. It’s all very well done.
There are tons of references for fans of the video games. The movie may be more of its own entity, but the story, elements, and characters feel true to the spirit of the source material. As a huge fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog games and cartoons, I can say it was just enough to make me happy. That being said, it’s also original enough to welcome newcomers and younger audiences. They may not catch each reference, but they will be able to easily follow the movie.
Sonic the Hedgehog may be fun, but it suffers from the same cliché and annoying tropes that other live action movies that focus on CGI characters, like Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Hop, do. Some of the humor is the same. The CGI protagonist befriends a live action character that they bond with despite the CGI character not belonging in their world. Even the unexpected road trip storyline from Hop and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip is used here. It makes Sonic the Hedgehog feel a little too much like those films, causing it to be too familiar or predictable at times.
There may be some things from the games featured in the movie, like Sonic’s home in the Green Hill Zone or the collectable rings, but don’t expect to see a whole lot from the source material here. Sonic and Dr. Robotnik are the only named characters from the games to be used in the film (other than a surprise during the credits). There is no sight of Chaos Emeralds, other iconic characters, jump springs, or any other element from the source material. It doesn’t make it a bad movie on its own, but it’s also understandable for someone to expect a movie to be more similar to the source material, especially during the age of accurate coming book films.
Sonic the Hedgehog may be hilarious, but some of the humor is pretty dumb, overplayed, or annoying. For instance, there is a moment when Sonic pulls up his leg and farts. It’s during an otherwise great scene. When these unfunny jokes occur, they immediately feel awkward or out of place.
There is one character in the movie, Tom’s sister-in-law Rachel, who is mostly obnoxious. She gets a funny line or two, but she’s otherwise bothersome. This is because of her random distaste for Tom. We see that Tom is a good-hearted, kind guy who enjoys helping people, has a good job, and absolutely loves Rachel’s sister Maddie. However, her one personality trait is that she wants Maddie to divorce Tom. The reasons for her distaste are never explained, which they could have done in a single line. It leads to a frustrating character that feels like the sister-in-law/wife’s annoying best friend cliché seen in rom-coms.
Product placement is expected to be seen in big-budget movies. It’s how studios are able to pay for certain things while companies are able to use something that many people will see to advertise. I’d be more surprised if it didn’t happen. However, there are two good ways to approach product placement. One is the realistic route. In real life, we are surrounded by company logos and ads. If a character walking through a city has a CVS behind them, that feels natural because that’s how it is in our world. The other approach is to go extremely over the top like 2017’s Power Rangers using Krispy Kreme Doughnuts as a McGuffin, which is actually pretty hilarious. Sonic the Hedgehog however, has some awkward product placement. There’s a scene where Tom asks Maddie what she’s doing, and she says “searching for apartments on Zillow.com” like in the website’s commercials, then the camera lingers on her laptop with Zillow.com open on it. There’s another scene that features a back and forth about Olive Garden’s endless pasta bowl. Scenes like this feel unnatural.
As stated above, the action sequences are a lot of fun. However, there aren’t a whole lot of them. We only see Sonic take on Robotnik robots a couple of times, and there is a bar fight scene. The movie could have benefited from at least one or two additional action sequences.
In the Know
Sonic the Hedgehog is based on a series of video games, which has branched out into several cartoons and comic books. There are quite a lot of references to the games seen throughout the film, most of which are subtle.
The movie takes place in a town called Green Hills, which references the first level of the original Sonic game, Green Hill Zone. There is also a mushroom world seen in the movie that is a reference to Mushroom Hill zone in Sonic and Knuckles. Sonic wears a headband at one point with a symbol on it. That symbol is used as the logo of the original video game. In Robotnik’s lab, there is a switch labeled “Badniks” in reference to his robot army. The iconic collectable rings are used as the film’s primary McGuffin. The Green Hill zone music is heard playing toward the end of the movie. The world Sonic is from is identical to Green Hill Zone from the games and even includes a loopdeloop. The opening scene shows Sonic running from the Echidna, a tribal race from the games that the character Knuckles belongs to. There are probably some other references that I’m either forgetting to mention or didn’t notice when watching the movie. Even though the movie stands out as its own entity outside of the games, there are more than enough references to them, which is nice and definitely makes the fans happy.
The start of the end credits sequence features a brief recap of the movie in the style of the original video game’s animation. It was certainly a nice nostalgic touch. Plus, it was cool to see a classic video game version of Jim Carrey.
There is no post-credits scene, but there is a mid-credits scene. Honestly, it’s one of the most exciting mid or post-credits scenes I have ever seen. It features my personal favorite Sonic character, Tails, arriving through a ring portal and mentioning that someone (most likely Sonic) he is looking for must be here, and that he hopes it’s not too late. He then spins his bushy fox tails and helicopters off into the distance. Not only was I extremely happy to see Tails make his big screen debut, but it was a great way to set up a potential sequel. I’m excited to see what they have in mind.
As mentioned a few times in this review, this CGI version of Sonic originally looked very different. The version shown in the original trailer was pretty terrible. It looked nothing like the source material and conveyed no emotion. It was overall a pretty creepy design. Fortunately, thanks to fan backlash, the studio pushed the movie’s release back a few months to alter the design to be closer to what the fans prefer. Unfortunately, however, the animation studio that worked on the redesign shut down not too long afterward. I’m thankful for the redesign, but hope it wasn’t the cause of people losing their jobs.
Sonic the Hedgehog may feel like a typical family live action/CGI hybrid movie like Garfield or Smurfs at times, but it’s at least a really good one. It’s nothing groundbreaking or amazing and can be too familiar or predictable at times, but it’s still a lot of fun for people of all ages. It offers references for fans of the video games, but is original enough that a newcomer can enjoy it just as much. It overall feels like a superhero-esque origin story for both the speedy blue hedgehog and his arch nemesis. Between seeing Jim Carrey go full Eggman toward the end and Tails being revealed and talking about a potential threat, they set up a sequel pretty nicely, and I hope it does happen. This may not be a huge step for video game movies, but it is certainly a necessary step in the right direction. I highly recommend it for audiences of all ages looking for some good, silly fun.