REVIEW: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ brings witty entertainment

Annalisa Baranowski | The DePaulia

Although there will certainly be higher-grossing films this year, there are few other 2020 releases that have generated as much pre-release discourse as “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I’m speaking, of course, about the internet’s garbage fire that ensued after the film’s first trailer was released online, sparking mass outcry and collective horror due to Sonic’s laughably terrible character design. 

However, after pushing back the release date a few months and overhauling Sonic’s design into something a little less nightmare-inducing, the second trailer pacified naysayers. Valentine’s Day has finally come and gone, and with it, the release of “Sonic the Hedgehog,” a film which, surprisingly, is nowhere near as upsetting or mind-numbing as many thought it would be. Although it’s not perfect, the combination of an entertaining – and at times genuinely witty – script and a committed performance from Jim Carrey make “Sonic the Hedgehog” an experience worth undertaking. 

Following Ben Schwartz as the titular blue alien, “Sonic the Hedgehog” tells the story of Sonic teaming up with a small town police chief, Tom (James Marsden) as he attempts to escape the wrath of the Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey), a psychotic genius obsessed with capturing Sonic’s speed. 

The first (and most noticeable) aspect of the film is its animation – pushing back the release a few months was clearly the right move. Sonic himself is just as bright and spirited as you hope he’d be, and his design channels the spirit of the original game as if it were made 3D and brought to life. Although at times watching him interact with the real world is a little odd (there are a few scenes where Tom is holding Sonic in his arms which looks distinctly wrong in a way I can’t describe) the whole animation is strong. 

As for Sonic himself, Ben Schwartz gives a solid performance. Although he’s an odd choice for a voice actor considering that in the narrative of the story, Sonic is apparently supposed to be a child. Schwartz has good chemistry with Marsden and they make for a passable lead duo, although their interactions do sometimes seem forced (Sonic flosses more than once, a reference which, by now, is more than a little outdated). 

Although it is a film aimed at children, many jokes do fall flat, and the hokey aspect of the entire affair is not helped by the numerous instances in which product placement is integrated with no attempt at subtlety. 

However, much of this contravity can be forgiven thanks to the work of one man: Jim Carrey. He is cartoonish in the best possible meaning of the word – Carrey’s performance is reminiscent of his over-the-top antics in classic films like “The Mask.” As Robotnik he’s consistently the funniest part of the movie – a true scene stealer.

Carrey gives 110 percent in terms of physicality as well – it’s just the right amount of exaggeration for a film about an animated blue hedgehog with superspeed. Although Sonic is the animated character, Carrey brings so much energy to this role that he himself seems like a generated collection of pixels as well. Also enjoyable – but not as attention-grabbing – is Lee Madjoub as Robotnik’s government-issued sidekick – although he’s not in very many scenes, he plays well off of Carrey’s spastic energy with his calm, placating demeanor. 

The rest of the cast is serviceable but generally unremarkable – Tika Sumpter plays Tom’s wife Maddie, and although she isn’t bad, her character on the whole feels unnecessary and brings little to the table. 

The film itself is well-paced and rarely feels bogged down or like it’s wasting time, and the action scenes are sprinkled in just the right places to tick the “superhero” quota and keep things interesting outside of what is basically a road trip movie. 

While it may not be a perfect movie or even a great one, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is a worthy adaptation of a well-loved video game, and the film has just the right amounts of star power and cleverness to propel it out of the dredges that video game adaptation usually find themselves in.