Sonic the Hedgehog – Way Past Cool Film Review

Written by Julie & Douglas Shepard

One thing needs to be said before anything else: the money invested to redesign the look of Sonic after intense backlash to the initial trailer was worth every penny. This movie's success hinges almost entirely on Sonic's likability, and it would have never worked with the original, too-human-yet-entirely-monstrous design. With the change, we have a hero who looks enough like the Sonic we know to be satisfactory, and rendered with remarkable realism. This is a character we can sympathize with, rather than be distracted by the creepily disproportionate shape of his eyes and teeth. (And legs. And hands. And ...)

Sonic has appeared in movies and animated TV shows before, along with countless video games from the classic to the cringeworthy (let us not discuss the horror that was Sonic '06), but this is the blue blur's first foray into big-budget Hollywood film.

The movie opens on an unnamed planet (presumably Mobius, Sonic's canonical homeworld in the cartoons and comics), where we see a young Sonic zooming around. We are introduced to a  new character, wise owl Longclaw, who has been acting as Sonic's guardian. She explains that people will always want his powers of speed and energy for themselves. She is forced to send Sonic to a faraway planet for his own safety, with a bag of golden rings that serve as portals whenever he needs to escape again. Her warning to him: “Never Stop Running”. Ten years later, Sonic has run all the way to Earth and to the town of Green Hills, Montana, where he lives in a cave and spies on the townsfolk he's afraid to introduce himself to.

As always, the cast is what makes a movie come alive. Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) thrives as the space hedgehog with attitude. There is plenty of Sonic's trademark cockiness, but also the questioning nature of a lonely teenager just starting to deal with the world. James Marsden does a serviceable job as Tom Wachowski, a small-town cop with dreams of the big city. His wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) works as the local vet and has a disappointingly small role, though she gets some nice scenes with her disapproving sister (Natasha Rothwell) and her adorable niece JoJo (Melody Miemann).

The movie quickly becomes a classic buddy roadtrip film as Tom agrees to help Sonic recover his lost bag of portal rings and keep ahead of the scientist the government has sent to capture him. The scientist, of course, has a bunch of exploding toys and his own designs on Sonic's powers.
If there is one character that had to be played as over-the-top as the titular hedgehog, it is his longtime nemesis, Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Carrey was the perfect choice for Robotnik (or Eggman if you prefer). Frantic, brilliant and vengeful is exactly what one would want from a  video game supervillain like him, and Carrey left teeth marks all over the scenery from his performance. Robotnik's interactions with loyal sidekick Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub) leads to some hilarious (if straight out of the Bad Guy Handbook) moments throughout the movie. I was disappointed that Robotnik had a throwaway line which fell back on outdated Native American tropes. It really should have been cut or at least called out.

Fans will be pleased with the number of Easter Eggs in the film. Mobius opens with Sonic zooming through the trademark loop-de-loop that helped put his original game on top. Throughout the movie you will see a number of  nods to previous Sonic games and movies. They even work in the infamous “Sanic” drawing.

There is a lot here if you like Sonic or have kids who do. In the end, the movie is a lot of fun. It's not groundbreaking, and some of it feels downright derivative. (The “everything slows way down except the super-speedy character moving at normal speed” scene could have been inserted directly from 'Days of Future Past' with Quicksilver turned blue and furry.) But it's a fun time at the movies, and sometimes that's all that really matters. It has already set a new video game movie record for biggest opening weekend. It is a great time for kids, and a fun time for fans of the series. Grab your bag of rings and go check it out.

There are a few goodies during the credits that you will want to stick around and watch (both clearly trying to set up a sequel), but no stinger at the very end.

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