The beloved 90’s Sega Genisis video game “Sonic The Hedgehog” gets the big screen treatment from the producers of “The Fast & Furious” saga. Led by fantastic voice work for Sonic by Ben Schwartz and leading the cast is James Marsden and a back to comedic form for Jim Carrey. Fans of the video game franchise will be satisfied with Sonic’s glowing acceleration and respect to the character. The film has charm and is down right delightful and don’t be surprised if you get an urge to fire up the old Sega Genesis. This is the cinematic introduction Sonic deserves.
“Sonic The Hedgehog” was created by artist Naoto Oshima and programmer Yuji Naka. The character was released in 1991 for the Sega Genisis game console. He was developed after Sega requested a new mascot character to compete with Nintendo’s mascot Mario. The successful launch of “Sonic The Hedgehog” helped Sega become one of the leading video game companies during the 16-bit era of the early 1990s. “Sonic the Hedgehog” has become Sega’s flagship franchise and one of the bestselling video game series, selling 89 million by March 2011 and grossing over $5 billion by 2014. Sonic has been developed into five different animated series and multiple comic book series over the years including one in a current run through IDW publishing.
When the first trailers for the live action and cgi big screen adaptation of “Sonic The Hedgehog” hit the internet, people went nuts. When they saw the design of Sonic, he only halfway resembled the iconic video game character. Being such a beloved character this didn’t sit well with fans. Huge backlash and signed petitions flooded the internet demanding he be designed the way he was originally designed to be.
The studio was so taken aback they made the unprecedented move of giving him a total, but costly redesign to bring him closer to what fans know him to be, leading to a release date delay. The fans demanded the character look right on the big screen and having seen the original design they intended to release, compared to the finished film, the redesign proved to be a savvy and smart move by Paramount Pictures. It helped make this big-screen adventure a the crowd pleasing kick-off to a profitable future franchise for Paramount.
“Sonic The Hedgehog” is a character borne from the 1990s, and it only makes sense that the movie feels like a kid friendly 90’s buddy comedy. Produced by the producers of “The Fast and Furious” saga, the themes are pretty similar focusing on the power of family and friendship. In the film not only does Sonic have to deal with living in the human world, but must try to combat his own loneliness by just wanting to befriend a human.
The specifics of Sonic’s home world are a but hazy, as screenwriters Patrick Casey and Josh Miller don’t concern themselves with his mythology. Neither are they concerned with world-building, working very quickly to bring Sonic to Earth in the opening act. He’s a special creature with magical speed, reaching up to 300 miles per hour, but he hides other abilities. He is equipped with a bag of portal opening gold rings to assist his escape whenever he is cornered by enemies.
During one of his escapes he accidentally relocates to Green Hills Montana as he figures out his next move. Green Hills soon becomes his home, with Sonic living in a nearby cave, that he has turned into well…a man cave. He slips out at night to spy on the community and to see what the human world has to offer. During their moments of domestic bliss, seeing everyone connect with each other, only manages to make Sonic more depressed about his isolation.
Ben Schwartz (“Parks & Recreation”) is ideally voice casted as Sonic. Schwartz has just the right energy to play the adolescent hero. He voices Sonic without going too over the top. Schwartz comes off as fresh and funny while coming off with an gentle innocence. He’s not the cliche that been happening too often recently by dropping constant pop culture references. He makes Sonic a fully fleshed out character in his own right. You just want to jump right in the movie and give Sonic a hug and fulfill his wish of being his friend.
James Marsden (“X-Men” and “27 Dresses”) is also cast well as he has had experience with a cgi co-star before in 2011 film “Hop”. Marsden is the nice guy human cop helping Sonic out. He has a beautiful veterinarian wife, played by an underused Tika Sumpter (who played Michelle Obama in “Southside With You”). They have an adoring yellow lab, and Marsden’s got that Paul Rudd vibe of being the nice guy without getting cheesy or sappy.
One of the big appeals to the “Sonic The Hedgehog” movie is the return to comedic form for Jim Carrey, playing the baddie, Dr. Robotnik. Carrey’s been doing his own thing for years and hasn’t done a comedy since the abysmal “Dumb and Dumber To” in 2014. Sonic would be his big commercial comeback to his zany ways. His Robotnik is most similar to his Riddler from “Batman Forever”. Carrey seems to be having a blast again, and it’s a smart piece of casting. Hopefully this will introduce him to younger viewers who isn’t familiar with his work. It’s nice to see Carey being the rubber faced funny guy again.
The cgi and visual effects are impressive including sequences when Sonic slips into super-speed, creating slo-mo sequences similar to Quicksilver’s in the “X-Men” movies. First time filmmaker Jeff Fowler graduates his action scenes from small shenanigans to a third act spectacle. In one sequence Sonic’s powers triggers a massive blackout, where the military gets called into action in a scene so ridiculous it could’ve been a “Saturday Night Live” outtake. That’s probably as cheesy as the film gets.
Fans of the video game franchise will be satisfied with Sonic’s glowing acceleration and respect to the character. Sonic sets up our hero and the villain for future sequels. “Sonic The Hedgehog” does a fine job establishing the games characters, powers and the clever way director Jeff Fowler incorporates some of the game’s signature style. The film has charm and is down right delightful and don’t be surprised if you get an urge to fire up the old Sega Genesis. This is the cinematic introduction he deserves.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)