Here’s the surprise of the year — “Sonic the Hedgehog” isn’t a bad movie. In actuality, it might be the best video game movie adaptation to date.
How? On paper, a live action movie adaptation of the “Sonic” franchise — a series that, for much of its legacy, has been a laughing stock of the video game industry. The series has more bad and downright broken games than it has quality titles. Almost all of its characters — save for Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman, as Sega of America has tried to rebrand him) — are anthropomorphic animals. Well, there was that one time that a human princess nearly made out with Sonic in order to bring him back to life. But we won’t go there. And despite a history that spans 30 years, the story is fairly barebones, unless you want to dig deeper into “Sonic lore.” But it works.
Then you look at the studio, Paramount Pictures, which somehow managed to crash and burn two of the most famous properties of the 80s: “G.I. Joe” and “Transformers.” This is a studio that is so inept and so clueless, that it approved the original “Sonic” designed that looked worse than whatever “Cats” was trying to do last year. At least Paramount has the intelligence to delay the movie in order to update the design to a much more classic rendition of the blue hedgehog. But it works.
Despite all of this baggage, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is an enjoyable family movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and almost fully embraces the lunacy of a blue hedgehog that can run really, really fast. It follows a tried and true framework that almost certainly expands its potential audience, while possibly leaving some longstanding fans a little disappointed. Sonic, an alien, is transported to Earth, where he tries to hide out because of his powers. It’s hard for a blue hedgehog to truly hide, especially one prone to get into as much trouble as this one.
Sonic ends up James Marden’s Tom, a law enforcement officer, who then goes on the run as they try to escape Dr. Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey. “Sonic the Hedgehog” taps into that early 90s nostalgia like no other movie in recent memory — drawing upon the legacy of the original Sega Genesis games and featuring a scene-chewing Carrey who slips back into his manic “Ace Ventura” and “Dumb and Dumber” phase like a glove. Carrey’s Robotnik, while initially somewhat different from the video games, is the star of this show. He walks a very thin line of being over-the-top entertaining and downright irritable. Thankfully, the movie knows when to step away and to ground things a bit.
Longtime fans will be disappointed to only see a few minutes of Green Hill Zone and Sonic’s own world. The colorful environments are recreated with obvious care and reverence. But much like the original G1 designs of Cybertron in “Bumblebee,” fans will only see passing glimpses of what could have been. For all intents and purposes, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is a basic origin story — grounded in such a manner as to introduce the character to mainstream audiences without going too radical. It’s just disappointing that so much of a movie about a blue hedgehog that’s “gotta go fast” is grounded in real world aesthetics and environments. Hopefully, a sequel will expand on the hedgehog’s more fantastical elements.
“Sonic the Hedgehog” is still a surprisingly enjoyable movie, even if it falls into many, mahy family movie tropes. Sonic himself is enduring, to an extent. He can be extremely annoying to those around him in the movie, but it’s usually played off for laughs enough that his character doesn’t become too grating on audiences. There’s not really a whole lot of meat to the movie, but it moves at a brisk enough pace — though, not as fast as Sonic — that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, nor dwell too much on one spot.
The flick serves as the first real family film of the year, and a much-needed palate cleanser after a month of bad horror flicks and much heavier topics.