Sonic the Hedgehog revives cartoon soul

Movie Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

James Marsden shows the movie-going public how to handle a ’90s-era videogame character reborn on the big screen as a kid-friendly version of Deadpool: Just roll with it.

Sonic the Hedgehog

3.5/5

Starring: Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Ben Schwartz (as the voice of Sonic)

Directed by: Jeff Fowler

Running time: 1 hr 39 mins

Rating: Parental Guidance

By Katherine Monk

Imagine Deadpool as a blue, kid-friendly, cartoon hedgehog. Now, and only now, think about the big-screen version of Sega’s 1991 16-bit sensation — because if you didn’t, you’d think a Sonic the Hedgehog movie would be pure folly.

Certainly, some studios did. Sony let it linger before passing the property on to Paramount. They weren’t sure there was enough residual nostalgia for the character, despite the cumulative receipts (exceeding $5 billion) and a successful reboot as a smartphone download. I don’t blame them. I played Sonic the Hedgehog on my Sega Genesis console, and I loved the game — for being a fun game. But Sonic didn’t talk. He didn’t have a backstory. He just ran around really fast and turned into an electric ball, capable of beating larger adversaries.

There’s no movie in that.

I thought.

So imagine my surprise as I sat there at the mega-mall on a Saturday morning, feeling like I was having far too much fun at a movie that I really had no faith in as a movie. In fact, sitting behind two grown men who were beyond giddy at seeing Sonic resurrected on the big screen, I abandoned cerebral function — and just rolled with it.

I think it’s the best way to watch any Jim Carrey movie, especially one where he plays a genius super villain named Robotnik on the trail of an alien woodland creature. It’s also the best way to watch a film with Tim Miller’s (Deadpool) fingerprints on it. Miller got involved while the project was in turnaround, and gave it his imprimatur before handing it off to director Jeff Fowler.

That means we’re essentially treated to well orchestrated mayhem, all set against the backdrop of beautiful British Columbia, and the town of Ladysmith, which plays the sweet little town where Sonic lands after an emergency exit from his home world. It was under siege, invaders want his powers, he has to run so fast, he rolls.

Think of those bullet-slo-mo scenes from The Matrix or The Flash, and you can see the fun device at play here. Sonic is the trickster who amuses, and acts in the moment. So it’s best to just roll along with him.

Seriously, don’t think too hard about Sonic’s backstory on a different planet, or his little bag of rings that give him a gateway to the galaxy, or his lack of self-knowledge when it comes to his own powers. Just think about a wisecracking, childlike blue animated character and his oddball dynamic with his new buddy: Tom “the donut lord” Wachowski (James Marsden).

Seriously, don’t think too hard about Sonic’s backstory on a different planet, or his little bag of rings that give him a gateway to the galaxy, or his lack of self-knowledge when it comes to his own powers….

When Sonic ends up on Earth to escape a violent invasion on his home planet, he forges an unlikely relationship with Tom, the small town cop — and mighty Donut Lord. It’s cute to watch Marsden straddle the dynamics of the relationship, playing Sonic somewhere between loyal canine companion and best friend cop buddy.

Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) voices the spinning blue dervish with a spirit inspired more by Gilligan’s innocence than Bart Simpson’s sarcastic wit, so the star of the movie squeezes into a rather fortunate spot: Sympathetic without being cloying, funny without being smarmy, and super-powered without being morally starched.

Throw in some classic Carrey — super-goof with a face of Silly Putty — and temper it with twenty years of pathos-laden life searching, and you get a strangely balanced picture: A blue-cartoon from another planet who slings zingers, and an over-animated human genius with a drone army.

Marsden offers the fulcrum as an adult with a sense of moral duty, ensuring Sonic the Hedgehog — somewhat surprisingly — is a complete Saturday morning experience that conjures an old-fashioned Disney experience where grown men and cartoon creations share a rare kind of love.

@katherinemonk

THE EX-PRESS February 15, 2020
Image above:Tika Sumpter, James Marsden, and Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG from Paramount Pictures and Sega. Photo Credit: Courtesy Paramount Pictures and Sega of America.
To read more movie reviews by Katherine Monk, check out the Ex-Press archive or sample career work at Rotten Tomatoes.

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Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

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Sonic the Hedgehog — somewhat surprisingly — is a complete Saturday morning experience that conjures an old-fashioned Disney experience where grown men and cartoon creations share a rare kind of love. -- Katherine Monk

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