Sonic the Hedgehog Is An Ok Video Game Movie (Movie Review)

Videogames flicks based on the actual games have, at best, a spotty track record. I personally enjoy a few Resident Evils and at least one Tomb Raider (the Alicia Vikander entry), but I can’t argue that most films which use the language of games and their ideas with original characters and plots are much better. Your Wreck-It Ralphs and Scott Pilgrims are, to paraphrase Marty Scorsese, actually cinematic. Still, as one whose love of videogames is second only to film, I’m hoping a beloved property will crack that digital ceiling someday and be truly great. In my mind, studios have infinite lives to get this right. Will Sonic the Hedgehog runs laps around the previous game-inspired features?

Paramount’s release of Sega’s beloved speedy blue devil is quite entertaining for the kids and dragged along parents set. More Detective Pikachu than Rampage, Sonic the Hedgehog might have a new paint job (at the insistence of the internet), but this is pretty much a fun albeit generic rental-worthy movie, featuring a rascally CG lead and a solid supporting cast, including Jim Carrey. For the record, in the epic battle between Sega and Nintendo, Sonic’s screen debut is a much more assured outing than 1993’s Super Mario Bros.

A quick opening informs us that even in a galaxy far away, baby Sonic’s speed ability is unique. Soon enough, he’s given a bag of rings and told he can use these pretty gold bands not to form a civil union but to venture off to any world he imagines. Flash forward a decade, and Sonic has made his home in Green Hills, Montana. The local crazy person calls him the “blue devil,” but no one else seems aware of his presence. That includes small-town sheriff Tom (James Marsden), who dreams of moving to San Fransisco with his spouse to do “real” lawman stuff. Sonic likes to spy on his neighbors, but he’s a lonely loner. He loves his Flash comics and his worn-out bean bag but craves a pal – a family.

Naturally, he loses his bag of rings and accidentally causes an area-wide power outage, which brings G-men and Dr. Robotnick (Carrey) to hunt him down. Tom and Sonic eventually team up for a road trip to avoid the authorities. Hilarity ensues, along with the basics: avoid the mean guy with technology, get to the Bay Area, use those rings, finish up in under 100 minutes.

Ben Schwartz voices Sonic with the same enthusiasm and manic energy he brought to NBC’s Parks and Recreation, minus the narcissism. That wide-eyed way of being Sonic also registers in his literal CGI eyes. He looks pretty good after his fan-demanded update, certainly not distracting to look at. I do think Pickachu is more tactical-looking, which I prefer. Still, like a lot in this film, the visual effects are serviceable. You know he’s not real, but Schwartz and Marsden have good chemistry as the hedgehog and good cop (aka Donut Lord) hit the road.

Speaking of visuals, this is definitely a less is more affair. There’s a big speed chase set in downtown San Francisco which is OK. About halfway through the story, a silly biker bar brawl plays like one of Quicksilver’s time stop moments in the recent X-Men films, which is mildly entertaining.  Most of the time, we’re just hanging with Sonic and Tom, with Marsden at his most likable. The bright side is that the movie doesn’t feel like it needs a ton of spectacle. This is not “Michael Bay’s Sonic,” so we’re never thinking some world-ending event is just around the corner.

Jim Carrey plays the evil Dr. Robotick as broad as you’d expect yet because it’s been years since the comedian has done a role like this, I was smiling. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny to witness Carrey contort his still-wirey frame around CGI drones and wreak havoc with app-controlled cars and other gizmos, but it works for a chuckle. Really, I was more engaged when Carrey was dealing with the other actors.

Still, all of this is perfectly suitable for kids. Nothing is ever too scary or dark. Take that for what it is from the guy who went nuts for the R-rated Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey flick a week ago. The truly great video game-based movie masterpiece is still not a reality. Sonic the Hedgehog gets the job done well enough though. And if they do a sequel (stay for the mid-credits tease), I’ll be there.

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