Sonic the Hedgehog movie review: Jim Carrey turns on '90s madcap in feature-length commercial for Sega merchandise
Sonic the Hedgehog rushes through its premise, and has just about the perfect pacing to keep us from feeling restless in our seats.
Video games just do not translate well into movies — and here is more proof as Sonic the Hedgehog joins a long list of ill-fated adaptations, going back to Super Mario Bros (1993).
Hoping to capitalise on the wave of nostalgia around vintage video games, Paramount delivers a feature-length commercial to sell Sonic the Hedgehog merchandise to kids. Thanks to some nifty last minute redesign after fan outrage, it may end up selling more toys to kids than tickets to adults.
For those who did not own a Sega console or watch the cartoons in the '90s, our story begins when a blue hedgehog escapes to planet Earth after an attack on his home planet. With a tribe of echidnas desperately seeking his power to run at super-sonic speed, Sonic is forced to settle into a lonely life in hiding in the small town of Green Hills, Montana. But when he accidentally causes a power blackout across the Pacific Northwest, the US government enlists the help of Dr Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate the source. Jim Carrey channels '90s Jim Carrey, bringing back the exaggerated gestures and trademark goofiness, in what is easily one of the highlights of the movie.
On learning about Sonic's powers, Robotnik becomes obsessed with harnessing them. So Sonic teams up with police officer Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his veterinarian wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), evades the evil henchmen on their heels, and recovers a bag of McGuffins before confronting Robotnik in the boss level to complete the game.
Ben Schwartz (perhaps best known for playing Jean-Ralphio Saperstein on Parks & Recreation) as the voice of Sonic is a bundle of coked-up energy discharged in short bursts of warmth. Children cannot help but fall in love with him. He has the infectious curiosity of a child, greeting each new discovery in his journey with a sense of joy and wonder. After years of loneliness, when Tom and Maddie make him feel like he is part of a family, it is all sorts of Pixar-level heartwarming goodness.
But unlike the best Pixar films, the appeal of this frenetically-paced film is limited to children below 10 years. It does not really explore timeless themes and universal ideas but simply stuffs it with the more flashy and overworked animated movie ingredients. So it really feels like a Pixar B-movie whose narrative inspiration comes solely from how adorable its hero is.
Writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller cannot find a way to make the adaptation work independently from its original source. They make up for the lack of originality in the script with an exercise in nostalgia and pop culture winks. Sonic is seen reading Flash comics, and quoting Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel in the Fast & Furious franchise) on the importance of family. Director Jeff Fowlers borrows some of its gags and action set pieces from cartoons like Road Runner (from The Looney Tunes Show), and the Quicksilver sequences (from X-Men: Days of Future Past).
Fitting to its subject, Sonic the Hedgehog rushes through its premise, and has just about the perfect pacing to keep us from feeling restless in our seats. Though you wish the film did not play it so safe, the powers-that-be at Paramount would have obviously considered it a family-friendly vehicle to keep the cash registers ringing across the global box office. So what you have is a film that is fun for the kids but not for the adults who will be dragged to the cinemas and merchandise stores.
All pictures from Paramount India and Sega of America
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