As a long time “Sonic” fan, I have learned to not expect much. I have become jaded to the constant cycle of underdeveloped and misguided product releases, that I approach every new product with heavy skepticism. When I saw the first trailer for this movie, way back at the beginning of 2019, I was not very surprised. Sure the CG was terrible, but that’s become an industry staple at this point. When I heard that Paramount was reworking the visuals, I was pleasantly surprised, but I still kept my expectations low. After years and years of horrible games, mediocre t.v. runs and anything in between, how could they possibly make this movie good? Well as it turns out, I was right and the movie is pretty miserable. I like to start off reviews with the things that I enjoyed the most about the movie, and since the list is pretty quick, I will get that out of the way. First, Sonic himself was pretty enjoyable, and his action scenes are even better. His animation and his voice actor have constant energy and a childlike sense of enthusiasm that fits the character very well. His actual model is still broken in my opinion, but I appreciate the animation team that worked extra hard on this model (and got their studio shut down as a reward). The movie made me laugh a couple of times, and there were some fun references to the “Sonic” series and “Sonic” pop-culture in general. The action scenes were one of the better elements present, evoking memories of the Quicksilver scenes in “X-men: Days of Future Past.” There are some very nice set pieces involving Sonic running fast enough that time essentially stops, and all the hijinx he gets up too during that time. These scenes are a lot of fun to watch, and really sell Sonic’s primary ability.
That’s what I consider good, everything else ranges from mediocre to horrible. Easily the worst part of the movie was Jim Carrey. I wanted to like his performance, but every time he was on-screen there was nothing to his act but sheer annoyance. He comes off like a somehow even more poorly written Sheldon from the “Big Bang Theory.” All of his jokes were either him being arrogant, or being unnecessarily smart, it never made me laugh, and I was constantly just hoping the next scene wouldn’t involve him. Jim Carrey really does seem to be into the role, but overall his typical brand of overacting comes off as stale and uninspired.
Something that bothered me, in particular, was the music. I noticed only two songs in the movie that were actually from “Sonic” games, and the rest was just generic orchestral music or overused pop tunes. This is a massive missed opportunity since the only consistently quality piece of the “Sonic” franchise has been the music. This lack of “Sonic” material is actually something that carries over to the rest of this film, which is my biggest complaint; Nothing about this movie needed to be a “Sonic” movie. I’m convinced that this was an original movie about a wannabe big-city cop and an alien sidekick, but Paramount thought it needed a recognizable character and made it a “Sonic” movie. This film’s Sonic and Robotnick have new and bizarre backstories, it features no other “Sonic” characters, incorporates zero elements of any other “Sonic” game (Chaos Emeralds, Sonic being essentially a superhero, Robotnick capturing animals, etc). This is such a big deal because without these elements it just comes off as the most generic of generic family movies. The movie also struggles from the pacing issues that I find prevalent in many modern movies. The characters barely spend any time with each other (and the audience even less) yet we are expected to believe that these characters have become the deepest of friends in the span of around a day?
Overall, I don’t recommend this film to anyone except bored families. It blazes through the story in favor of dumb jokes and action sequences. The supposed saving grace of this movie, Jim Carrey, was an unbearable nuisance, and what little fun there is in this movie is quickly snuffed out by a mountain of cliches and a refusal to lean into the deep history that the movie is based on.
Here are the highlights: Sonic does an iconic dance move, makes some fart jokes and goes Super Saiyan. Not sold yet? Don’t worry. Plenty of other interesting things happen in this movie.
We’ve come far, folks. Sonic began as a beady-eyed semi-human that once horrified the world and has become a smaller and slightly cuter creature that still looks a little strange, if not at least more accurate of the physical representation of the beloved video game character.
The movie was what I expected: pretty good. Most of the time, the plot was stitched together in a convenient series of exaggerated events in the way some children/animated movies are, while some of the jokes were too corny or childish to be funny (at least for most people- we heard children cracking up in different parts of the theater so maybe I’m just being too uptight). However, many of the silly jokes did hit the mark, and the plethora of deadpan jokes and references made the film an overall enjoyable one.
The plot of the movie isn’t really more complicated than you can get from the trailer. In fact, rewatching the trailer has made me realize that it hints at way deeper plot elements than what exactly exists in the movie. Sonic, a powerful creature from another world, is being chased by an eccentric villain and looks to a small-town cop for help. That’s pretty much it. Even for a movie targeted towards kids, the plot is bare-bones and doesn’t even develop Sonic’s backstory past a hastily shoved in introduction that’s maybe ten minutes long.
Some moments will have you grimacing at the awkwardness and forced humor. Other moments will give you unexpected and clever laughs. For example, the movie pays tribute to the classic “Sanic: gotta go fast” meme by flashing a familiar drawing on-screen. It may be only a little funny to those that don’t recognize it, but if you spent any time on the internet in the past several years, you’ll get a good laugh out of it.
This running monologue of humor, as well as a good dash of pop culture references and easter eggs, keeps the movie entertaining. The characters are unremarkable, but most of them seem to have a good sense of humor. What also helps is that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. I hope you don’t intend to regard a movie about Sonic the Hedgehog as serious because I feel like the resulting disappointment would really just be on you.
The other thing—or person, I should say—that movie keeps this movie alive is Jim Carrey. Just like in some of his other classic movies like The Truman Show and Liar Liar, Jim Carrey infuses a special energy and humor into often what could have easily been a stale role. If you know Jim Carrey, you know that cliche or dull are never options for him. And if you don’t know Jim Carrey, you’ll be able to spot him right away.
In Sonic the Hedgehog, he plays the eccentric and genius villain Dr. Robotnik, who broods about the fact that nobody is as smart as him. All he wants to do is capture and experiment on Sonic for science. And he does every scene in his perfectly over-the-top style. Even if you don’t like exaggerated visual gags, at least you won’t be bored when he’s onscreen.
I don’t want to discount James Marsden (prominently featured in Enchanted and Hairspray) and Ben Schwartz (known for his role in Parks and Rec as well as voice acting in other productions). Marsden did well as an average but loveable guy who feels obligated to help Sonic and pulls a lot of good jokes out of his back pocket. Overall, though, Jim Carrey steals the show.
As far as animated movies featuring semi-realistic fuzzy main characters and inspired by gaming nostalgia, I would vote for Detective Pikachu over this movie. It had more interesting characters (and let’s face it, despite the great redesign, Pikachu is still cuter) and a more detailed plot.
I don’t regret seeing Sonic, though. My friend and I got some good laughs and a nice sense of nostalgia. Even as someone who played a few of the games many years ago, without even dipping into the comics and other universe expansion, I could catch on and enjoy some of the easter eggs.
As a fun feel-good flick that’s great for family movie nights, Sonic the Hedgehog is a great option. It’s not the most interesting choice out there, but it’s entertaining and enjoyable. Make sure you watch until the very end of the (very nicely-animated) credits too.