The live-action and CGI movie adaptation of popular video game character Sonic the Hedgehog was meant to have been released months ago, but after the furious reaction to the release of its first trailer, the studio went back and reanimated the character.
The first CGI iteration of Sonic had creepy too-big teeth and looked almost too human – like a kid in an elaborate Halloween costume. No one wanted a more realistic-looking version of a blue-furred hedgehog who can run really, really fast.
So all eyes were on the new Sonic design – and you know what, it works. It’s a really effective rendering of the classic character many of us grew up playing, and is now being introduced to a whole new generation of kids.
Make no mistake, Sonic The Hedgehog is a kids’ movie, but there’s enough here for their parents so that it’s not a total slog.
At the centre of the Sonic movie’s appeal is a vintage Jim Carrey performance as the villain of the piece, Dr Robotnik, aka, the Eggman.
This is peak Carrey, a delightfully unhinged, physical performance reminiscent of his work in Ace Ventura or The Mask. Carrey throws himself into it, contorting his face into every expression imaginable and throwing his body all over the screen.
You half expect him to see Sonic’s disappearing trail and go, “Sssssmokin’!”
It’s a malevolently goofy performance that kids will find deranged (and therefore funny) and will smack their parents with nostalgia.
Carrey has done great work in drama roles over the years, but there’s a primal simplicity to his monumentally over-the-top comedic portrayals that hits the right spot for unthinking laughs.
This version of Sonic is an alien, special even for his original world, who travelled to Earth through a portal created by gold rings. He ran away from danger and has been told that if things on Earth aren’t safe, he should use those rings to jump to the next world, one with nothing but mushrooms.
Sonic’s Earth home is on the outskirts of a small town in Montana, where he lives on the edges of Green Hills observing its people go about their lives. Sonic has a pretty good life – he has a cave with a beanbag and a bunch of stuff like The Flash comics.
But when his realisation that he’s really lonely leads him to cause a massive surge, the government sends the sociopathic Dr Robotnik (Carrey) and his army of drones to investigate.
When Sonic accidentally reveals himself to local cop Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), a kind-hearted man Sonic has been calling Donut Lord due to his penchant for talking to the sweet treats, the two embark on a road trip mission, with Dr Robotnik in pursuit.
Sonic The Hedgehog is essentially a movie about conquering fear and discovering friendship and a sense of belonging, told through a simple, fun story that’s familiar and unchallenging. In some film genres that can be a death knell, but when it’s a kids’ movie that’s more about dazzling you in the moment with on-screen action than breaking down industry barriers, it’s not such a bad thing.
There are some cool sequences the film has borrowed from other screen speedsters such as The Flash’s electric blur whizzing through a city, or the X-Men: Days Of Future Past sequence where it seems like time slowed down while Quicksilver played havoc with his almost static environment. They may be derivative but it works.
There’s a great voice performance from Ben Schwartz, best known for playing Jean-Ralphio on Parks And Recreation, that makes you invested in the emotional wellbeing of a blue, anthropomorphic speedy space hedgehog, and the movie has layered in little Easter eggs for gamers to find.
Sonic The Hedgehog doesn’t set out to rewrite the rules of the kids’ movies, and given its inauspicious start, you could call the end result a win.
Sonic The Hedgehog is in cinemas now
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