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Film Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

18 February 20 words: Nathan Warby

The trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog was met with more than a little animosity. After a $5 million reanimation, is the final film enough to please audiences? Nathan Warby thinks so...

Director: Jeff Fowler
StarringBen Schwartz, James Marsden, Jim Carrey
Running time: 99 minutes 

There’s no doubt that Sega’s adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog was made with younger audiences in mind. Its silly humour and colourful characters hammer that home right from the off. What’s surprising is how much else is on offer to win over its audience, regardless of age. It's a shame, then, that a boring plot and cringe-worthy dialogue hold it back from becoming a great video game flick.

The biggest question heading into the film was how the titular hedgehog would stack up following the infamous first trailer controversy. The good news is he looks great after a much-needed redesign, adopting a cartoonish style that's much more akin to the source material, instead of those horrific human hands. The bad news is that while he may be appealing to younger viewers, he occasionally borders on unbearable for grown-ups. His dialogue feels like it was written by a middle-aged parent with half an idea about what appeals to kids, resulting in scenes that are alienating for the whole family. 

The driving force behind the film is the relationship between small town sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his new blue friend. Tom’s ‘average Joe’ persona is the perfect foil for Sonic’s larger-than-life antics, and watching two characters who couldn't be more different strike common ground is extremely heartwarming. Their bond does feel a little forced to begin with, but by the end there’s more than enough to have you rooting for the duo. 

Underneath all the slapstick comedy and Fortnite dances (it’s as bad as it sounds) there is a message that is surprisingly moving. Amid his unrelenting chatter, Sonic is just trying to find a place to call home. Where he finds that home is ultimately among people who care about him and want to help him - his friends. It's hardly the most subtle or original idea to bake into a script, but it makes the finale infinitely more powerful than it would have been otherwise. It’s a little on the nose, but don’t worry, the flossing is never gone for long. 

Seeing a movie that appeared doomed to fail produce something that is genuinely entertaining feels like a triumph

A talking hedgehog that can run at supersonic speeds sounds like an ideal opportunity for striking action set-pieces, but Sonic never fully lives up to its potential. His speed is never conveyed in any meaningful way, which is a shame given it’s the character’s greatest asset. The film resorts instead to plucking ideas straight from Fox’s X-Men franchise. If you’ve seen the Quicksilver scene in Days of Future Past, then you’ve seen nearly everything Sonic has to offer in the action department. 

The highlight by far is Jim Carrey’s turn as the evil Dr. Robotnik. Carrey steals every scene he is in with a consistently electrifying performance, comfortably scoring the highest number of laugh-out-loud moments across the runtime. The legendary actor is clearly having a blast and fully commits to the role despite its lack of depth. Fans of the character may be disappointed not to see Carrey breaking away from his usual eccentricity, but it fits extremely well for the tone Sonic is striving for. 

Seeing a movie that appeared doomed to fail produce something that is genuinely entertaining, with an earnest message to boot, feels like a triumph. The directors and producers deserve credit for their efforts in giving this beloved character the best possible adaptation. They don’t entirely stick the landing but this is certainly a film worthy of your time, whether you have a nostalgic connection to the games or children that need entertaining. It probably won’t last in your memory for long, but there's still a few laughs to be had.

Did you know? What attracted Jim Carrey to this project most was the fact his daughter was a big fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog games growing up.

Sonic the Hedgehog is now available in cinemas 

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