Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun, fast-paced, family-friendly adventure that uses its main cast, their charisma, and great visuals to mostly make up for an uninspired story and occasionally lackluster dialogue. It’s not perfect, but it is one of the better video game adaptations out there and the best piece of entertainment Sega’s mascot has seen in years.
The film’s story isn’t based on any of the games, instead telling its own entertaining, but paint-by-numbers narrative. Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is from another world, but lives in a town on Earth called “Green Hills” – a nod to the iconic Sonic franchise stage, Green Hill Zone – in secret in order to hide his extraordinary speed and power. Sonic is eventually discovered, and then super scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) sets his sights on capturing the blue blur to find out what makes him tick. Helping Sonic along the way is Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), a cop in Green Hills who is coincidentally looking for more action than he normally sees as a police officer in his small, quiet hometown.
Sonic the Hedgehog ironically stumbles right out of the gate by going through the titular hero’s new origin too quickly, but it’s almost constantly entertaining once Sonic, Robotnik, and Tom are all in play. Sonic the Hedgehog’s writing ranges from moderately enjoyable to moderately painful, but the movie uses its main trio’s charm to great effect, making the whole package a fair bit more exciting and enjoyable than it has any right to be.
Schwartz does a fantastic job as the voice of Sonic, bringing a ton of energy, confidence, and silliness to the beloved blue gaming icon. Also, Sonic just looks incredible. After the nearly universal backlash from the first trailer, the character was completely revamped, and THANK GOD for that. The stellar effects here are on par with last year’s Detective Pikachu.
Marsden is endearing and instantly likable as Tom, and manages to do a lot with some of the film’s worst lines. His delivery was enough to make me chuckle through at least a handful of quips that would certainly be groan-worthy on paper.
Better than Marsden’s Tom, and even Schwartz as the supersonic speedster is Jim Carrey hamming it up as Robotnik. Carrey evokes the same wonderfully weird and scene-stealing vibes in Sonic the Hedgehog that he did in The Mask and Ace Venture: Pet Detective. It’s about time we got another brilliantly bizarre performance from him!
The action is also surprisingly good, even though it’s almost all just chases. Each sequence has different mechanics and mechanical menaces in play that they never feel too similar, and the special effects used to create the chaos around Sonic are as impressive as he is. And while the “moving so fast time basically stops” bits feel like blatant imitations of Quicksilver’s scenes from Fox’s X-Men franchise, they’re still quite the visual treat.
Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t great, but it clears the (very) low bar set by most of its fellow video game adaptations pretty easily, and I found myself having a good time through most of it. If only Sega could start putting the same level of quality back into their Sonic the Hedgehog games…
And no, the fan-made one they produced doesn’t count.