From the very first and, frankly, catastropic trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog, this movie has practically had the words “Dumpster Fire” flashing above an actual dumpster of dumpster fires. The character design of Sonic was ugly and creepy, the trailer was bland and uninspiring, and it seemed like the only thing that was done right was Jim Carrey’s Doctor Robotnik.
So, like people do on the internet… people complained and, amazingly enough, the makers of the movie… actually listened to our concerns and took the unprecedented step of redesigning Sonic until he looked like Sonic should. No reimagining, no realism… he was a walking, talking video game character shoved into the real world.
The only thing standing between this movie and greatness was the movie itself which was sure to be just… just awful.
Sonic the Hedgehog is about a space hedgehog named Sonic.
I know… I know…
Sonic is running from world to world because he is inbued with a special super secret strange power to run very fast and produce unlimited power. Do we know why? No… because this is a movie about a blue space hedgehog from another world who runs really fast and can make lightning explosions. If you’re looking for depth and backstory, you’re looking in the wrong place.
As the movie opens, Sonic has been living on Earth for a few years outside of the town of Green Hills, Montana where I don’t think there are any hills. He lives on the outside looking in, making sure he isn’t seen and yet, he makes imaginary friendships with the people in town that he watches including a local policeman played by James Marsden that Sonic calls, “Doughnut Lord.”
However, when the government becomes aware of Sonic’s existence, they call in super genius, Doctor Robotnik who makes it his mission to capture the curious blue alien and take the source of his power, forcing Sonic to ask Marsden’s police officer for help and to retrieve his magical bag of teleporting rings that got accidentally teleported to San Francisco so that he can get off the Earth and find safety elsewhere.
I know… I know…
I’m not going to lie here…. I… loved… this movie.
I loved it. I loved every single frame, every single hokey joke, every single ridiculous plot contrivance, and every single action sequence. Sonic the Hedgehog could be the beneficiary of a combination of low expectations and a crew that actually cared about the source material more than what we expected, but it is… just wonderful.
Granted, I grew up playing these games until they ended sometime in the 90’s and never made the transition to 3D gaming and please don’t destroy my fantasy of denial so, yeah… the nostalgia factor is high with me. Sonic the Hedgehog, however, doesn’t milk that nostalgia. Instead, it seems content with just telling a simple story with likeable characters, saving most of the callbacks to dialogue that will either go over the heads of the uninitiated or at least bounce off with no effects.
I have to admit, seeing the live-action/CGI mashup of James Marsden and Sonic gave me bad flashbacks to that Easter Bunny movie, Hop, but unlike Hop, Sonic the Hedgehog didn’t convince me that arson was an effective way of escaping a movie theater. The interplay between Sonic and his human costar is fun, charming, and genuine when it needs to be.
Sonic himself, to the effects house credit, looks pretty darned good given that they digitally recast the part over the course of a few months. To be honest, he even blends into the scenes better than the first Sonic with the creepy teeth did. Perhaps just getting Sonic out of the uncanny valley made us mentally accept a cartoony character in a real world environment? Is it our ability to accept something completely unrealistic rather than something that looks close to realistic? Who knows… it just looks better. Sonic emotes better, he’s more expressive… I love the little guy.
Jim Carrey… in the annals of Hollywood history, there will some day be a wing in a museum dedicated to perfect casting. In that wing will be Heath Ledger as the Joker, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and Jim Carrey as Doctor Robotnik. We all know that Carrey was going to make Robitnik a bit of a goofball because that’s what Jim Carrey do, but what I was not expecting was that Jim Carrey brings an unexpected air of sinister heaviness to the role as well. Doctor Robitnik is not just a clown, but also a palpable threat and that threat is never lost in the story. I really hope that the man can bring more of it in the inevitable sequel because I really don’t think many people are talking about how perfect he was as the bad guy here.
Is it sappy? Sometimes. Is it corny? Yes… it’s a movie about a talking blue super speedy space hedgehog with magical Stargate rings. Of course it’s going to be corny… but that’s where this movie excels: It completely embraces the weirdness, compresses itself into a spinning blue ball, and rolls with it. It embraces the ridiculousness, it hugs tight to the stupidity, and it spoons with the 16-bit source material. This is a video game movie and it has no intention of taking a single iota of it seriously.
This is a road comedy adventure and it’s really the best kind. Two delightful characters, a lot of lively action, some light-hearted humor that rarely goes vulgar or offensive (there was a fart joke, but it involved a fun callback for Sonic so I’ll let it rip), and took advantage of plot elements to make the adventure huge and expansive.
Is it perfect? Heck no… it has issues, it has some cringe, and it has some forced lines and humor, but through it all, it never loses its heart or its mirth. It’s not ashamed of what it is. Rather, it loves what it is and that makes me love it. There’s nothing too bizarre or ridiculous to include in the story and it includes it with gusto and pincache.
What’s more, the makers of Sonic the Hedgehog listened. They listened! I’m not saying that every studio should listen to people on the internet all the time because people on the internet can be cruel and petty and would complain about anything if you gave them a forum, but for the studio to look at the fan reaction and say, “Hey, these dorks have got a genuine point. Let’s do something to rectify that,” shows that the studio and the filmmakers genuinely cared about this product and, even if they had never fixed Sonic’s design, I still think that care would have shone through. To be honest, I kinda hope that, when the movie reaches the home video market, that an alternative cut with the original terrible Sonic design is released because I’m genuinely curious to see if it would have affected the movie’s enjoyability.
Whatever the case, I know that I enjoyed myself for the hour and a half that I sat in the movie theater and that I will be ready for any sequel that is birthed from this unlikely good time.