[su_dropcap size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] want you to think back on all those great movies that have been adapted from video games. Go ahead. Wrack your brain. I’ll just be over here reading newspaper comics: That Garfield is just a little rapscallion! Still, I can’t help but think that feeding your cat nothing but lasagna would result in the litter box from hell. I mean, maybe if you used lean meat–oh hey! What’d you come up with? Nothing? Yeah, me too. So, we’ll kick off this review of Sonic the Hedgehog with the caveat that the bar of expectations has been set pretty damn low.
It’s difficult to type the words, almost like my fingers have been frozen in amber: This cinematic Sonic ain’t…half…bad. Phew! That was tough. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not The Magnificent Ambersons, but I would hope nobody on this warming globe would ever expect it to be. No, this film makes the smart, refreshing choice of setting modest goals and then ticking them off the list.
Adapted from the classic Sega game, the story follows our favorite cosmic hedgehog (voice of Ben Schwartz) as he gets exiled to Earth. It seems little Sonic’s superpowers could be weaponized, making him a target for every megalomaniacal mustache-twirler out there. That includes Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), a petulant tech-villain who wants to integrate Sonic’s super-speed into his formidable drone army. Desperate and alone, Sonic must turn to an affable small-town cop (James Marsden) to keep him safe.
This feels like the right time for full disclosure: I’ve never played Sonic the Hedgehog. My childhood was spent neck-deep in Nintendo cartridges. So, while whenever this game was huge, I was lost somewhere on Yoshi’s Island. I’ve heard this movie features quite a few callbacks to the original game, but I can’t really speak to that.
I can say that this movie supplies adequate distraction for its target audience: Kids will enjoy the frenzy of CGI effects. (Although the super-speed sequences are an obvious lift from the recent X-Men films.) The filmmakers responded to biting criticism that the initial reveal of Sonic looked, well, creepy, by softening his features and rendering him cuter and more marketable. Of the humans, Marsden makes the perfect aw-shucks Everyman, and gives the movie welcome shot of humanity. Carrey hasn’t gone this flamboyantly hammy since he and Jeff Daniels once made the perilous journey to a place called…Aspen.
Parents with an eagle eye will spot a few jokes aimed in their direction. I caught one visual homage to Dumb and Dumber, along with references to Amazon’s drone deliveries and other sly pop culture gags that may or may not elicit a chuckle or two. Sonic the Hedgehog may not be a home run, but it is a surprising base hit. After watching several decades worth of video game movies strike out and head for the showers, it’s great to finally see one standing on-base.
99 min. PG.