Starring: James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Taika Sumpter, Adam Pally, and Neal McDonaugh. Featuring the voice of Ben Schwartz as Sonic.
Directed By: Jeff Fowler
Where I Watched It: Paramount Plus
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Narrated By: Darren Polish
The Plot: Banished to earth for his own safety, Sonic (Schwartz) lives a rather mundane life for ten years in a very sleepy town, with a police officer (Marsden) who dreams of being a big city cop and one day actually getting to do something substantial. Then, after a chance encounter and an energy blast, these two find themselves on a buddy road trip adventure to regain control of Sonic’s rings, while being pursued by the unhinged Dr. Robotnik (Carrey).
What Works: Of course there’s a sequel to this. The first film is barely an adaptation, and sets up a sequel as if it was promised one in blood. It’s barely an introduction to Sonic’s world, as he is transplanted here, and makes this far more of a opposites attract buddy film than a video game adaptation.
I’m sure this format has been used, just replace Sonic with a human, and there’s nothing really new about this approach. The catalyst allows for the entry of the villain, and the arrival of the villain sets them on their journey. It’s incredibly formulaic, but sometimes formulas work. The thing about video game movies is that they have a bad reputation for failing hard.
And since Sonic can most closely be associated with Mario, that franchise notoriously didn’t adapt well. Even the animated Ratchet and Clank seemed to let fans down. So, it’s actually this desire to avoid the normal tropes of a videogame world by placing Sonic in our world, with earth rules, that makes this work.
And pairing him opposite James Marsden, who is directly familiar to this format, having already done Hop, was a nice touch. Even casting Jim Carrey as an evil genius just feels like a tip of the hat to his Riddler performance.
It’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, nor is it necessarily playing it safe. By subverting your expectations of what an actual video game adaptation is, you wind up with one of the stronger films. As an adaptation of the series, it may not work, but I have a feeling the sequel is going to feel a lot more like a videogame.
What Doesn’t Work: By trying really hard to not suck and sit right in the pocket of being a typical buddy movie, Sonic runs the risk of just feeling like everything you’ve seen before… just with Sonic added. It’s not fresh enough to stand out on its own if there wasn’t a little blue guy in it. Detective Pikachu did a much better job trying to change the perception of what a Pokémon film could be, or even an anime adaptation. Sonic was too afraid of being awful, and was more concerned with launching a franchise, that it settled for being good enough.
It’s not bad, and you might get some chuckles or smiles on your face, but by and large, the limited amount of time in the movie that Sonic or Robotnik get to resemble anything close to a video game is probably around 1/10th of the film. The rest of the time, they are just hitting this beat by beat.
Does all of it make sense? no. Did you think a Sonic The Hedge hog movie would make sense? I think the Bette question is, does everything feel earned? Is the payoff a result of an actual commitment to the structure and characters in this story? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
The Blind Perspective: I think the description did a great job of letting us know what Robotnik and his various gadgets look like, so a huge thanks on that point. For films with science fiction elements it is so crucial to know what these things that have no basis in reality actually look like. There are other times, like when a portal opens up, that the film maintains making sure you know the fantastical elements of that scene.
Another important moment knocked out of the park are the absolutely knock off Quicksilver moments where Sonic moves so fast that he can run around a room during a fight and do twenty different things while it seems everyone else is somewhat frozen in time. Even though the scene makes little sense as Sonic only moves 300mph as revealed earlier, it is still important to make sure we know what’s going on so all the little jokes land.
Good audio description, especially for a film in this genre.
Final Thoughts: This first film is not something I planned on watching multiple times, but I felt the same way the second time as I did the first. It’s a decent time spent, and not a bad videogame movie. Of course, it tries really hard to avoid being one by not taking any risks, but it does set up a sequel that I expect to be much more deeply entrenched in the lore of Sonic’s home world.
Final Grade: B-