After seeing Sonic the Hedgehog, I am convinced that Pokémon Detective Pikachu was a fluke being the only decent video-game movie that isn’t a cynical cash-grab with a famous video game character slapped on the top.
I’m actually quite confused as to why a Sonic movie of all things is being made now. Sure, the character is popular thanks to a bevy of solo titles and numerous appearances in Nintendo crossover games like Mario & Sonic At the Olympic Games and Super Smash Bros., but that alone isn’t a good enough reason.
The biggest thing to come out of this movie is the idea that if the internet shouts loud with anger and vitriol, film studios will apparently listen and cater to those voices. For history’s sake, the first Sonic trailer featured a wildly different look for the character which horrified fans who then demanded the look be changed. This effects overhaul pushed the release date by about three months and cost an added $5 million to the $90 million budget. And I guess it all worked because hey, he looks like the character from the games.
Too bad literally nothing else even remotely feels like those games.
Sonic the Hedgehog is what happens when a studio needs a franchise. They scour the realms of culture looking for something, anything, to make a series of films out of, based on intellectual property that people recognise, but with Paramount it feels like they never cared for anything in the games. Sonic doesn’t have Tails or Knuckles to go on adventures with, so we’re just stuck with him learning what Earth is, even though that has never happened in any of the games because, well, they aren’t set on Earth. His powers have never been something to hide, he’s never had lightning or electrical powers, and those golden rings are not teleportation devices.
All of these changes aren’t “offensive” or anything, but what it does show is a complete lack of care for what this world or character really is and a cynical attempt for the studio to ape dozens of better ideas from superhero movies.
Those portals in Doctor Strange and Avengers: Endgame were pretty cool? Well let’s just throw that in there.
Remember those X-Men movies with the super-fast guy? Well let’s put Sonic in those exact same sequences complete with identical effects and the same cues of older music adding to the fun of slow-motion hijinks.
And you know what? Let’s just throw in an obligatory sky-beam as well as basically the same lightning superpower realisation sequence like Wonder Woman and Thor: Ragnarok had.
Smash all these random ideas from better movies then slap a known property on the front and boom! Sonic the Hedgehog.
It’s pretty obvious from this Frankenstein’s monster of recognisable ideas mixed with tedious humour that this movie is really only for kids under the age of 12. Is that the worst thing in the world? No. It just means that anyone else will feel alienated and rather bored from unfunny jokes, bland action sequences, an obvious plot about knowing where home is (gag), Michael Bay-levels of in-your-face product placement, and be mildly amused when Jim Carrey shows up and performs like he’s in a completely different movie.
You feel sorry for James Marsden and Tika Sumpter who, despite solid chemistry with each other, are forced into tired scenes we’ve seen and done before in The Smurfs or the other “James Marsden helps a CG anthropomorphic animal find its purpose” movie Hop, which no-one has seen since. The movie desperately wants you to feel a bond forming between Sonic and Marsden’s Tom but scene after scene of one learning something from the other with paint-by-numbers dialogue is not going to do it.
Sonic the Hedgehog will entertain your kids enough for 90 minutes thanks to rapid colours, mindless action, inoffensive cringe humour, and a few Fortnite references thrown in there because why not, but just know that this is as generic as you can get. It barely holds together as an actual movie with purpose, instead coming across as an unoriginal attempt to start a new franchise and save Paramount Studios from yet another disappointing box office year. For some, that might be enough, but for this reviewer, I still sat expressionless and listless watching Sonic the Hedgehog be tepid and tired.
Director: Jeff Fowler
Cast: Ben Scwartz, James Marsden, Jim Carrey
Writers: Pat Casey, Josh Miller, (Based on the Sonic the Hedgehog game series by Sega)