Directed by: Jeff Howler. Starring: James Mardsen, Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey. Runtime: 1h 39 min. Released: February 14, 2020.
A small-town police officer, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) wants to move to San Francisco with his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Before meeting her there, he crosses paths with a fast, blue hedgehog from another world, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz), on the run from an evil scientist, Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
Robotnik is handled well, a technology genius who wants to capture Sonic to further advance his technology. He’s a delightfully weird character who thinks every human is stupid and is convinced his technology is the future. When he’s introduced, there’s a great out-of-context moment where Robotnik says, “Check out what came out of MY egg sac!” and he shows us his fleet of drones. Jim Carrey finds the perfect balance for Robotnik, playing to his sense of superiority – especially when he bosses around assistant Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub) – while still being hilarious and weird.
It’s fun watching Carrey play a villain. It’s also fun seeing Jim Carrey be Jim Carrey again, tapping into his earlier manic roles and it feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve seen him have this much fun. The craziness isn’t always vintage Carrey (think something closer to Liar Liar in consistency), but there’s a scene in his evil lab where Robotnik dances to the Poppy Family’s “Where Evil Grows” and it’s his funniest scene here.
A bit more about the plot, while Sonic tries to escape Robotnik, he uses Tom’s garage to try to escape to another world with one of his golden rings – he just has to throw it on the ground, step in it, and he’s gone. Before he can run, he’s tranquilized by Tom – since he’s shocked there’s a talking blue hedgehog in his garage.
Sonic drops the bag of his golden rings into a portal which lands on a building in San Francisco, so the film turns into a road trip trying to get those rings back so Sonic can leave and Earth would be safe. The camaraderie between Sonic and Tom is fun to watch, and I like their dynamic. As for Sonic, the CGI looks great, especially after the character was re-designed after that initial trailer last April.
Acting-wise, Ben Schwartz has fun voicing Sonic, and Marsden is fine as Tom. We’re mainly here for Sonic and Jim Carrey, but Marsden is along for the ride and he plays it fine. As far as Marsden sharing the screen with CGI animals goes, this looks smoother than in 2011’s Hop when he shared the screen with the Easter Bunny. Marsden at least does more than Tika Sumpter, and the only interesting thing I remember her doing is supporting Tom’s decision to take a job in San Francisco.
There’s a lot in Sonic that’s derivative, like Sonic being lonely and wanting a family. Tom, whose main drive is wanting to save someone, and Sonic, who wants a family, develop a believable friendship that does start to feel like a weird little family. It’s familiar, but screenwriters Patrick Casey and Josh Miller know how to play the greatest hits of this sub-plot and they do a fine job with it.
Some of their best creativity comes in a scene where Sonic goes so fast he re-arranges things during a bar fight, and it’s like a callback to similar scenes like Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. They made me want a sequel by the end of this, because the credit scenes show how a sequel could up the ante and that has me excited. That’s something I couldn’t say for last year’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
The action in the film is solid, and some of the best action happens when they’re on the road to San Francisco and Robotnik’s drones catch up to them. The humour in Sonic the Hedgehog is largely tailored for children, but some of that humour works for adults, too, and Jim Carrey makes this hilarious.
The film’s entertaining, which can’t really be said about a lot of video game adaptations. I don’t know if it would have been watchable with the original character design of Sonic, but their delay of the film shows they cared about producing something fans would enjoy. Director Jeff Howler achieves making something lite and enjoyable, and Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun film whose pace rarely goes below “gotta go fast.”