Spoiler alert: Student reviews new ‘Sonic’ movie
By Kristina Markulin
Promotional Communications Major
It’s hard to know what to expect when walking into “Sonic the Hedgehog.” The discourse around the design of the titular character led the movie to ascend to meme status last year. The movie was either going to be “so bad it’s good” a la “The Room” or join the ranks of bad Hollywood film adaptations of beloved franchises, landing a seat between “The Last Airbender” or “Dragonball Evolution.” Instead, “Sonic the Hedgehog” isn’t either. It isn’t rage-inducing or hilariously convoluted, just a bit misguided.
The film follows Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz), who is introduced as an alien from a faraway planet hiding out in Green Hills, Montana. It’s a place with not much going on, where the biggest worries are raccoons in your garbage and turtles in the road. The local sheriff, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), is tired of the humdrum and is planning to leave the middle of nowhere in favor of the fast-paced San Francisco.
Other than one person, no one in Green Hills believes that the “Blue Devil” is real. But when Sonic mistakenly shuts down the region’s power grid, he officially goes on the run. Tom begrudgingly becomes his driver as they’re both being chased down by the government agent Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). It’s standard practice for a buddy road trip comedy from thereon in.
The plot of “Sonic the Hedgehog” isn’t bad, just rushed. The movie stumbles from one event to another, never really leaving the audience with any sense of stakes or impact. Sonic and Tom go to a place, there’s a fight, they win, they move on. Nothing is given the weight that it should. The stakes are told to the audience, they know they exist, but they don’t feel them. It doesn’t feel like two fugitives on the run, it’s more of an incredibly inconvenient family vacation.
The editing doesn’t help with this ailment either. Scenes feel too short, like something was cut out for time, not to mention some conversations feel as if entire sentences were spliced out. At times, the two combine and turn into a hectic mess, leaving a disjointed mashup of flashy CGI and pop culture references.
The fast pacing is on brand with the Blue Blur, but it doesn’t give an adrenaline rush. It’s more like a brief, disorienting sugar high with the crash coming too soon. It leaves the audience wanting more, but in the worst kind of way.
The writing isn’t stellar either. Some jokes do land, but they aren’t given enough time to resonate. The ones that don’t are usually either half-baked tropes or out of place pop culture references. And although product placement in movies is common practice, having Tom’s wife, Maddie, (Tika Sumpter) directly mentioning checking out houses on Zillow feels incredibly unnatural and disingenuous.
It’s almost as if the movie is going out if its way to tell you that it’s sponsored by Optical Illusions without working itself into the narrative naturally. The only product placement that feels somewhat natural is Olive Garden, but even that is clumsily handled.
Lines that aren’t supposed to be jokes or advertisements also have a hard time selling it. They often feel trite and corny, absent of any care or substance. Some of the lines are downright cringeworthy, but few lines do stick, mainly when talking about the main themes of the film.
Despite how chaotic the writing and editing were, the essence of Sonic and Dr. Robotnik was surprisingly on-brand for the most part. Schwartz did well embodying Sonic’s signature brand of attitude while also lending to the movie’s wide-eyed amazement the character was given in this new, more sheltered take on the hedgehog.
Even though a good chunk of the script is wonky, Carrey does a phenomenal job capturing the pompous, overconfident and self-absorbed energy that radiates off Robotnik. Even the new characters are enjoyable, from the disapproving in-law, Rachel, (Natasha Rothwell) to the ever-so supportive Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub).
More often than not, it’s the dialogue holding them back. Many of Sonic’s lines feel out of place, and a flossing CGI hedgehog just doesn’t sit well. At times, there isn’t enough Jim Carrey charisma to cover up bad writing. But it never feels like Schwartz or Carrey aren’t having fun in their roles.
The overall film is surprisingly wholesome. The movie isn’t too interested in fan service, but viewers should still stay until the very end. It doesn’t mess too much with the canon of the franchise, preferring to build its own story. But director Jeff Fowler made sure to throw in a few easter eggs to remind the audience that this is a Sonic film. Fans can expect to hear some familiar tunes and notice some well-hidden details from the games.
The messages of family, friendship and what it means to truly live are just sappy enough that it makes the audience feel good without being so ham-fisted it becomes overwhelming. While cliché at times, “Sonic the Hedgehog” isn’t the worst thing ever. It feels like a boost level that’s too short, underwhelming despite its potential. Grade: C-