After Sonic The Hedgehog‘s first trailer came to light, no one expected that the film could be salvaged. With a design that looked like it came out of a child’s nightmare, it seemed clear that the creators behind the movie tie-in had no idea why fans loved the little blue devil in the first place.
Fast-forward one redesign and a full movie screening later, and I’m pleased to admit we were wrong. Time and box office numbers will tell if the first round of marketing was a fatal error or a genius ploy for attention, but the end result far surpassed the initial expectations. Similar to last year’s Detective Pikachu, Sonic The Hedgehog captures the playful spirit of the videogame and crafts a fun buddy comedy around it. Slightly less mystery in this one, of course, but plenty of heart and laughter.
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Sonic The Hedgehog Makes Use of Cast Chemistry
The central thesis of the film is that poor Sonic is lonely hiding out on Earth, trying to keep his fabulous speed powers hidden from greedy souls who would take advantage of it. The darling blue hedgehog has read every Flash comic he can get his paws on, and he’s stalked the Donut Lord and Pretzel Lady through every movie night in their living room, but none of that makes up for his total lack of friends.
Because of this, it’s crucial that the chemistry between Sonic (Ben Schwartz) and Tom (James Marsden, AKA the Donut Lord) be spectacular. It’s quite a feat to achieve, considering that Schwartz is not actually beside Marsden most of the time and is instead represented by a piece of tape or a stuffed animal. But the two vibe on the same frequency somehow, and most of the laugh out loud moments of the film come from their banter or reaction shots.
It’s not just the buddy cop nature of their dynamic that cinches the deal for Sonic The Hedgehog, though. Tika Sumpter has exactly the warm, inviting presence as Maddie that would make a little blue hedgehog believe he could find a family with her and Tom. Adam Pally and Natasha Rothwell shine in smaller roles, which play off of Tom and Maddie respectively in much wackier ways than the ‘straight men’ of the set can.
Chewing Scenery Like Only Jim Carrey Can
And, of course, you can’t talk about Sonic The Hedgehog without bringing up Jim Carrey’s turn as Dr. Robotnik. He is appropriately larger than life here, and he exaggerates every movement with a cheeky self-awareness that’s hard to hold against him.
Perhaps the best part of the performance is how everyone else reacts to him in-universe, wishing they could tell him he’s doing too much and yet terrified he will crush them with his enormous intellect if they so much as dare to breathe wrong before him. His faithful sidekick Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub) is the perfect representative of that duality, worshipping his mentor and yet always an inch away from stepping out of line.
The primary conflict of Sonic The Hedgehog is admittedly silly, with the US government so enamored by the electric power of one tiny blue creature that they handcuff themselves to the whims of a madman. But it’s really only there as a thinly veiled excuse to let the characters run free, which they do in a very breezy way.
There’s not a lot of depth to the story, beyond the power of friendship overcoming the greed for power. But there also doesn’t need to be. Sometimes it’s enough to spend an evening with a beloved video game character and keep your eyes peeled for Easter eggs and promises of spin-offs if this outing makes enough money. (Hint: there is absolutely the opportunity for a sequel contained within this film if the studio so chooses it.)
And, finally, yes: the redesign works wonders. It’s still not the highest quality animation of all time, but Sonic himself is cute as a button. Ben Schwartz’s stellar vocal work brings him to life, and your kids will definitely want toys his that little blue face on them.
Sonic The Hedgehog premieres in theaters on February 14, with a runtime of 100 minutes. It is rated PG for action, some violence, rude humor and brief mild language.