A kinetic, electrically-paced buddy comedy starring a lighting fast, motormouth-talking anthropomorphic hedgehog (Ben Schwartz), and a zany Jim Carrey that began its life with a debilitating, life-threatening narrative—CGI so poor and unlike the video game whence it came that the entire character was reanimated again due to a public backlash— “Sonic the Hedgehog” has every right to be a full-on disaster. Instead, and seemingly against all impossible odds— in spite of having to go back to the drawing board to recreate a new look for the animated character— ‘Sonic’ is one of the first video game movies worth watching. Not only that, the appropriately looney and juiced up comedy is even charged with charming and heartwarming moments.
Bright and cheery and frenetically adrenalized in mood and tone, like the main character, ‘Sonic’ is surprisingly lovable and always jumping off the walls. An adaptation of SEGA’s beloved 90s video game about a hedgehog that has the power of supersonic speed, it’s easy to forgive the cliched premise and simple plot. It’s also surprisingly not a problem to forget the movie’s cheeky and irreverent attitude. It’s basically “Deadpool” on coffee instead of cocaine and similarly meta— when Sonic dashes in and out of freeze frames he drops quips like, “That’s me… you’re probably wondering how I got here.” The results may vary on your tolerance for these self-referential Looney Toons-like wackiness and gags, but the film undeniably possesses an entertaining spark.
‘Sonic’ begins on his home world (Mobius), zipping around, collecting those golden rings from the video game, but these immersive animated scenes are soon interrupted when his alien planet explodes, and his magic rings sends him to Earth. Landing in Green Hills, Montana, it’s here the blue-furred speedster creature spends his days, hanging out, playing guitar, reading Flash comics and spying on the locals. Among these favorite hobbies, playing family with Sheriff Tom (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), is one of his most cherished pastimes. “Keanu Reeves is a national treasure!” he exclaims while spying on the couple, cuddling on the couch watching “Speed,” (and as Sonic peers in through their window, he imagines himself under the covers with them).
His parents lost on Mobius, one day Sonic tries to outrun his loneliness, but his supercharged baseball antics cause a citywide power outage which puts the blue blur on the authorities’ radar. Soon, Dr. Robotnick, (a scene-chewing Jim Carey in classic Jim Carrey mode) a villain with a super brain and super-evil laugh is hired by the government to find Sonic.
Luckily for audiences starved from a lack of his madcap energy of screen, the comedic hurricane that is Jim Carrey returns with a category 5 vengeance. With this mustached baddie, Carrey allows himself to go for broke, and the elasticity of his wild, drastic expressions make you wonder if he had time to get plastic surgery between each take. This is the classic chaotic, screwball Carey, that transformed him into a 1990s superstar (“The Mask,” “Ace Ventura”), and it give the film a kick of franctic epinephrine.
Dr. Robotnick is such a delight that, if it weren’t for Sonic’s likability, audiences would be rooting for the bad guy. But Sonic is likable, and when he teams up with sheriff Tom, you desperately hope they find the missing rings that take them to San Francisco.
Director Jeff Fowler‘s comedy moves at a captivating clip. It helps that Tom and Sonic have a comedic sparkle that could power an entire city. Whether dodging Dr Robotnick’s army of droids in a car chase, or dodging punches in a slow-motion bar fight, the two are endlessly endearing. Part of the credit goes to Josh Miller and Patrick Casey’s script, which levels up from the usual toilet humor seen in kids movies by upgrading to meta-references and 4th-wall-breaking narrations that recall the aforementioned Merc with the mouth. But most of the credit goes to the actors.
Marsden is terrific as the straight man “human.” His laidback cop plays nicely off Ben Schwartz’s screwy, over-caffeinated Sonic voice performance. Loving, and caring for each other when shit hits the fan, their friendship is the picture’s power source. The thrilling finale pits the two against Dr. Robotnick, they jump through magic rings, teleporting from Egypt, to China, to New York City. And eventually, they end up back in Montana, dueling Robotnick in his spaceship. “Why would you throw your life away for this silly alien,” Dr. Robotnick asks Tom during the climax. “Because he’s my friend,” Tom replies. It’s a simple line, but one that packs a surprising punch. “Sonic the Hedgehog” might nail the outrageous energy and outlandish hyperactivity of the video game, but it’s the effective and poignant force of friendship that truly powers this video game adaptation to level’d up triumph. [B]