Well, it’s finally here — the movie the internet has been waiting for: “Sonic the Hedgehog.” After a three-month delay to completely reanimate the iconic blue hedgehog, it’s time for him to zoom onto the big screen. In the ever expanding lineup of horrible movie adaptations of video game franchises (including “Assassin’s Creed,” “Warcraft” and “Tomb Raider,” among others), Sonic is a far cry from the worst but hardly does much to break the mold. If viewers are expecting something that may be ironically entertaining, then they ought to be pleased. Surprisingly, however, the movie is less of a trainwreck than many suspected after its first trailer in April 2019 and even manages to offer some charming elements.
The movie finds a young Sonic (Ben Schwartz), a hedgehog-like creature with the gift of super speed, living with his caretaker Longclaw. Sonic is forced to flee his home planet, using golden rings that allow him to travel through the universe, and take refuge on Earth. There, he must hide himself and his powers to avoid being hunted. Years later, he has made a home for himself in a cave outside the small town of Green Hills, Mont., which he observes from afar. Among the citizens he watches, his favorite is beloved town police officer Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). But when Sonic loses his rings and the government discovers his powers, he and Tom must travel to San Francisco to find his rings and avoid capture by the government’s craziest, egomaniac scientist, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
Much like its titular blue blur, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is a movie overflowing with an energy that both works and doesn’t. The film doesn’t waste time, and instead moves almost jarringly quickly from one scene to the next. On the bright side, this means that scenes that don’t land their jokes won’t be around for long. While the rapport between Sonic and Tom isn’t particularly compelling, Tom doesn’t agonize much over whether or not to help Sonic, making it easy for the film and the audience to just get into the adventure rather than trying to shoehorn depth and conflict into a relationship that hardly has any to begin with. Sonic’s energy can be overwhelming, with the hedgehog constantly throwing out one-liners that range from chuckle-worthy to utterly cringey. That being said, the immense presence that Jim Carrey brings to the screen as Dr. Robotnik mitigates Sonic’s worst.
While Tom and Sonic’s main storyline can feel somewhat unfocused and inconsistently humorous, Robotnik’s role as the antagonist draws upon Carrey’s particular brand of chaotic comedy to consistently channel this over-the-top, cartoony villain in a solid and focussed evil plot. While not particularly compelling, Robotnik commands the film’s attention and is simply a delight to watch. Action scenes involving Robotnik and his drone army are nothing spectacular, but they give the story some momentum through the fights and keep Carrey’s performance present in Sonic and Tom’s adventure.
“Sonic the Hedgehog’s” biggest drawback is that it tries to do a lot of things, some of which works, some of which doesn’t, and some of which does neither. This may come down to an issue of purpose, as the movie seems to be self-aware of the absurdity of both its own existence and Sonic’s place within internet culture (which can come off as either funny or disingenuously pandering). Other times, however, the movie seems totally unaware of that background, focusing instead on creating an origin story for the video game character (for better or for worse). It’s a weird experience that simultaneously tries to appeal to young audience members who are most likely the target demographic for the Sonic franchise, older fans who may have been around since the 1991 release of “Sonic the Hedgehog” on the Sega Genesis, and the parents in the audience who have to go with their kids to see the movie.
While the movie isn’t made well by any means, it can be an enjoyable experience regardless of whether the audience is laughing with the movie or at it. Although the movie is primarily for children, it will keep viewers entertained, even if it may not live on to become a classic.