After my tirade against (ugh) Lord Mikenificent in my last review, I feared that my tenure here at the Fictosphere had come to an end and to my deep surprise I discovered that I did not want this to be the case. As the months passed, this seemed increasingly to be the case and so when I received a professional-looking email the other day from the Fictosphere with the subject “NEW ASSIGNMENT” I found myself relieved and even somewhat eager to return to my stock-in-trade: reviewing movies. My enthusiasm didn’t even dwindle when I saw that the ticket was for Sonic the Hedgehog, which was released several weeks ago. I expected nothing less.
I will preface the article proper by saying that, prior to this assignment, my interactions with Mister Hedgehog and his ilk have been minimal. I am not a gamer and actually have nasty memories of other children mocking me by calling me Robotnik and throwing tiny burrs at me and claiming they were tiny Sonics. Despite this frequent torment, and the fact that I would be routinely called “Eggman” online up to the point when I removed my social media presence, I endeavored to learn all I could about the hedgehog before viewing the film.
My first attempt was marred by uncertain search terms which led me to a world where a truly shocking amount of people want Sonic and his friends to do a number of rather unsavory things. I spent little time exploring that corner of the Internet and modified my search terms. The general consensus seems to be that there haven’t been many good Sonic games in a number of years, and the gameplay videos I watched seem to like how the character has evolved very little. The video games were only the tip of the iceberg.
My next step was to view several episodes of Sonic’s animated series. There have been five, each with different casts and tones. Jaleel White voiced Sonic in the majority of these (bringing to mind the times other children called me Fat White Urkel) and I actually remember seeing bits and pieces of two of the shows as a child while finding better things to watch. For four of these cartoons, that effort wouldn’t be that difficult. There was also an anime OVA which I did not watch due to time constraints.
The final step was to do some light research into the comics which immediately made me regret stepping into that quagmire. There was a comic in the United Kingdom, series based on the cartoons, a new ongoing title from a company called IDW, and then a swirling mass of confusion put out by Archie. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on there, even with the assistance of a blog dedicated to that purpose, but the entire thing spanned several different series, mini-series, and specials and was first inspired by both of the original American cartoons before some bookkeeping errors forced them to create an entirely new continuity.
At this point in my research, I was confused as to what it was about the character that made people stick with Sonic the Hedgehog for three decades and why they were making a movie about him now when his cultural cachet is relatively low. He seems brash, and while he has a sense of justice it’s tempered with an almost terminal impatience. Sonic also has a lot of friends, and some would argue that he has far too many friends and it’s difficult to parse which of those friends belong to which incarnation of the character. There’s also an odd preoccupation with chili dogs which seemed to have been born of nothing but which has, nonetheless, become a signature of the character.
Luckily, the movie did have a potential silver lining: Jim Carrey as Sonic’s nemesis, Doctor Robotnik. Unlike Sonic, I am intimately familiar with Jim Carrey’s work and while he’s certainly responsible for his share of less than stellar movies, his presence usually imbues a movie with a potent energy many have tried to mimic with little success. I am pleased to say that his presence here is a treat, bringing his signature chaotic skills to the screen to imbue Robotnik (who is otherwise one-dimensional, obsessed with his own superiority with little motivation past that) with a manic menace few other actors could match.
And so, baffled but armed with a faint hope, I watched Sonic the Hedgehog. My confusion didn’t alleviate, as they opted to place the character on Earth without any of his usual allies. Instead, we get James Marsden, a character so bland I can’t remember his name. Why they chose to take Sonic from his usual fantastic surroundings and place him in a small Montana town is beyond me, but I can only assume it had to do with budgetary reasons. Sonic himself, voiced by Ben Schwartz, is at least somewhat more charming than his typical portrayals and his use of speed grants the film some character it wouldn’t otherwise have. There are other characters, but they leave so little an impression that they’re barely worth mentioning.
The story itself is simple: Sonic is a lonely fugitive and seeks to keep it that way despite the fact that he wants the exact opposite. You can probably guess what happens from there. Along the way, he battles Robotnik and some rather unimaginative robots while being quippy. If it wasn’t for Carrey and Schwartz, none of it would have worked nearly as well as it did. Indeed, despite everything, the movie’s breakneck pace made it easy to choke down and while I can’t say I liked it I also can’t say I disliked it. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a McDonald’s burger: everything’s in the right place so it goes down easily.
My major complaint is that, due to being a PG movie about a hedgehog and his human ally driving to California while fighting a mad scientist, the movie has zero naked boobies. One might think that hoping for such a thing would be a fool’s errand but my initial foray into the Sonic fandom showed that many Sonic fans crave sexuality in their hedgehog-based media and I was hoping that it would translate to the screen as naked breasts.
You may enjoy this film should you have a pre-existing positive association with Sonic the Hedgehog or are a pre-teenaged child (or have the mindset of one) and I can only say that you don’t have to studiously avoid this film. It’s harmless, though I wouldn’t suggest paying too much attention to James Marsden and then operating heavy machinery as his performance and character will leave you extremely drowsy.