If you were wondering if the film adaptation of the 90s Sega classic video game franchise Sonic the Hedgehog could be decent, rest assured, it is true. It is not bad. As an ardent supporter of Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, nothing pleases me more, and I am openly admitting that this film is nowhere near that quality. It works as a kid’s movie, one that many will be playing on repeat for years to the point where it becomes a nostalgic kid’s classic by 2030.
I certainly enjoyed Sonic more than I expected, and after all, there’s nothing like showing up to a mall for a 10 AM showing of a PG-rated kid’s movie as age 30 rears its tired head around the corner. “It’s better to be over the hill than be buried under it.”
Speaking of hills, Sonic the Hedgehog takes place in Green Hills, Montana, and becomes a road trip to San Francisco. For the unfamiliar, the titular hedgehog, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz), looks nothing like an actual hedgehog. He is blue, seemingly spiky-haired (more on that soon), and simply must go fast. In the classic version of the Sega games collects gold rings to maintain life force and personal riches. Here, the gold rings are portals to other worlds, allowing him to jump away from danger as needed, but the portal rings are finite: if he loses his little bag of rings, he’s toast.
Sonic briefly goes a little too fast and generates a lightning energy burst so strong it knocks out the electricity along the west coast of the U.S. (and possibly further). This strange occurrence causes the government to send in their best weird mad scientist contractor, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), to resolve the situation. He uses technology far more advanced than what the government can make on its own, and is more akin to a Watchmen character than Iron Man.
It also stars James Marsden, who has been knocking mixed live action-animated kids movies out of the park since Enchanted. He has returned to the genre to remind us all that he knows how to commit. In Sonic, he plays the sheriff of Green Hills, and handles lots of little emergencies. Now he’s got a big one: a blue spiky haired alien who inexplicably speaks English is running amok in his town. He discovers Sonic in his garage, and shoots him with a tranquilizer just as Sonic is about to skip town, and so Sonic drops his bag through the portal and onto the roof of The Transamerica Pyramid in SF. Since Sonic can’t read a map nor does he own a smart phone, he needs help getting to his bag in California, and guilts the sheriff into driving him there.
What stands out the most to me, though, isn’t the basic plot devices or weirdness of video game adaptations as a concept. I just need to understand what his blue shard-like hair is actually made of. Hedgehogs are mammals with quills, which is basically a stiff hair that won’t come out of their bodies the way a porcupine’s might. They do curl into a ball and roll if needed as a form of defense, as Sonic is known to do against enemies big and small.
But the Sonic of our movie occasionally sheds his shiny, possibly radioactive quills, and those very shard-quills are the only evidence of his existence unless you happen to find him standing in your house. Yet, there is a scene where Sonic is drenched with water and shakes his head as a dog might, revealing that his wet quills puff into an afro. Needless to say, I am appalled by this development. He also has eyelashes. While I left Sonic with more questions than answers, I still find myself thinking of it positively, and accepting most of the wacky stuff. Let’s face it, Jim Carrey is the real draw here, not the ultimately heartwarming story. As long as you accept that, your expectations can be met.