The little blue blur had a bit of a rough go on his way to the movies, with the initial “live-action” (CGI) version of the character going back in for a redesign following the debut of the first trailer last year. The visual overhaul only delayed the movie by three months, but the wait was worth it: Sonic the Hedgehog is surprisingly good.
Having been invited to attend the family day blue carpet premiere on the Paramount Studios lot last month, I’d been sworn to silence pending the studio embargo, which has been lifted as of this writing. Embargoes are a strange thing in this day and age, especially given that “sneak preview” screenings took place in cities across the country last weekend, with initial fan reaction on Twitter echoing what I’ve been looking forward to sharing for the past few weeks. Sonic is a good time that fans of the long-running series of Sega video games should enjoy, but it’s presented in a way that makes it really accessible to a family audience. You don’t have to have played — or even have knowledge of — the games to get into it.
The setup is brisk in bringing Sonic from his world to ours as the titular Hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz) finds himself on the run from some kind of villainous creatures who are after his powers. The transition from child Sonic to the familiar character happens so quickly that we never really find out why said creatures were after him or what the full extent of his powers might be, aside from super speed, energy, and the ability to essentially act as a living EMP (that’s electromagnetic pulse, but no one ever says that).
On Earth, Sonic has essentially spent a decade living alone in a pretty sweet cave that’s decked-out, much akin to the way a quartet of 6-foot turtles once transformed an NYC sewer into living quarters for themselves and their 4-foot rat friend. It’s like the dream bedroom for most kids, packed with essentials, such as comic books and toys. But what it’s missing is interaction with other human beings. Aside from his appearance and strengths, Sonic is very much a human in search of a family, and he’s lonely. In fact, it’s his frustration that alerts the world to his existence — but by accident.
For years, Sonic has been an urban legend for the town of Green Hills, Montana. There’s the one “Crazy Carl” that spins tales of the “blue devil,” but since no one else ever sees Sonic, the stories are written off as nonsense. In the meantime, Sonic keeps watch over a local sheriff (James Mardsen) and his wife (Tika Sumpter) even though they have no idea that the little guy is there sharing in their movie nights and watching them at work. To Sonic, Sheriff Tom is the “Doughnut Lord,” until the two are properly introduced.
Sonic’s energetic outburst catches the attention of the U.S. government and Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey), the goon that it has hired to investigate the unusual situation and its fallout. Carrey is very much doing his best “Jim Carrey” schtick right here, with much of the over-the-top theatrics that inhabited his performances as Ace Ventura and the Grinch. But there’s an additional layer to it — an old-school, mustache-twirling villain who’s motivated by a similar plight as his new, blue adversary: loneliness.
The writing by Josh Miller and Patrick Cassey is lively, and Jeff Fowler really bucks the odds with his feature-length directorial debut. And the supporting cast, including Lee Majdoub and Adam Pally, provides some fun moments along the way as the action moves from the sleepy woods of Montana to the bustling city of San Francisco and back thanks to something from Sonic lore that has new meaning here: those iconic golden rings.
While the film doesn’t spend much time on the other worlds that Sonic has been known to visit, we see just enough for it all to make sense, and there are some very spoiler-y connecting pieces that I’m intentionally not sharing at all.
Bonus Level: Sonic the Hedgehog Has a Great Soundtrack
Even if you’ve had zero interest in the film, you’ve likely heard “Speed Me Up,” the lead single from the soundtrack. Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, and co. popped up on Jimmy Kimmel Live to perform the track this week, and the end credits number has been getting a lot of play since its release last month. It’s ridiculously catchy and feels like a throwback to the late ’80s/early ’90s era when almost every movie contained a song about said movie (see: Bobby Brown’s Ghostbusters II jam, “On Our Own”).
The score by Thomas Holkenborg aka Junkie XL (Alita: Battle Angel, Deadpool) is also better than it should be.
Photos: Paramount Pictures