Zach Dirksen — Staff Writer
It’s almost as if we’ve seen it before. A young-to-middle-aged man finds himself in the company of an oversized CGI creature with a talent for human speech. Said animal often possesses a unique skill, perhaps musical ability or some sort of magic power. The unlikely duo finds themselves in a variety of scrapes and close shaves, often pursued by a comical villain. It’s Alvin and the Chipmunks, it’s The Smurfs, and it’s a multitude of other family films released between 2000 and 2012. And, like an aftershock of movie genres past, it’s Sonic The Hedgehog. Yes, the speedy blue rodent has made his way to the big screen, and, if anything, it’s blandly familiar.
Ever since teleporting to our planet, Sonic’s been lying low in Green Hills, Montana. It’s a solitary life, but Sonic’s made the most of it by stealing various objects for his cave and admiring the lives of Tom and Maddie Wachowski, the Green Hills’ resident police officer and veterinarian, from afar. To Sonic, they have the perfect life: friends, purpose, and love. But to Tom, things could be better. Being a police officer in a small town can be boring, and he’s put in for a transfer to San Francisco.
Things come to a head when Sonic, finally realizing how lonely he is, accidentally releases an energy surge so powerful that it causes a mass blackout. The government takes notice and brings in an expert to handle the situation: Doctor Robotnik. He’s as smart as he is crazy, and things begin to look bleak for our little hedgehog hero. Sonic turns to Tom for help, but accidentally loses his teleporting rings. Thus, the pair sets out to retrieve the rings, with Robotnik in dogged pursuit.
Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t so much a movie as it is a test run to see if the character works in a medium outside of television and video games. It simply takes the Sonic brand and pastes it over a formulaic movie structure we’ve seen a dozen times before. It works in many of the same ways those movies work, and fails in many of the same ways those films have failed: It’s got some fun moments and it makes good use of its cast, but fails to bring anything new or unique to the table.
While I’m not a Sonic fan per se, I know there is so much more that this film could’ve done to stand apart, and the fact that it is just a buddy road-trip sci-fi family comedy is kind of maddening.
However, the experience isn’t a total waste. The film does have a few bright spots. Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz brings a fun and warmth to his vocal portrayal of Sonic that ensures it doesn’t grow stale or annoying. James Marsden turns in a surprisingly believable performance, especially considering he was likely acting against nothing throughout production, with Sonic being added in later in the editing process.
The absolute best thing about the movie is Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. Carrey brings an energy and humor to his role that we haven’t seen from him in decades. Hearkening back to his performances in The Mask and Ace Ventura, Carrey commits every muscle of his body and face to the role, energizing the entire production with his manic genius. Every frame Carrey occupies in Sonic The Hedgehog is a genuinely fun time and pushes the movie ever so slightly closer to being a unique experience. Carrey’s performance alone might be worth the price of a movie ticket.
Sonic the Hedgehog is an unoriginal waste of its source material’s potential, but still provides a sometimes-entertaining and fun escape, especially thanks to Jim Carrey’s hilarious performance. Perhaps its inevitable sequels will be able to capitalize on the weirdness and originality of the SEGA mascot, but for now, this safe, unoriginal version will have to do.