What makes you wanna view Sonic the Hedgehog? Is it Jim Carrey? Maybe Sonic was your favorite video game character? Inept cop? You have a soft spot for hedgehogs? You are a veterinarian? If your answer is just one of the above, then, you’re bound to be disappointed. But if your answer is more than one, or all of the above, there might still be chances that you will like the film as a whole.
What started as a video game by Sega in 1991 to take on Super Mario Bros., has snowballed and gained enough momentum to score a live-action theatrical release. And if you were old enough to handle the joy-pad, and perhaps, Sonic, in the 90’s, chances are you will be way older than Noobmaster69 right now. Which, I don’t even know who he/she actually is.
Coming back to the film, which were directed by Jeff Fowler in his directorial debut, I can only suspect that in order to tick some boxes of the now 30-something or end-of-20’s crowd, they needed to give Sonic a (semi) grown-up look. They thought that it was necessary.
With (or maybe without) much of a surprise, the general public did not think so. Countless movie fans, video game fans, animal lovers and veterinarians expressed their growing disgust towards the “adult” (read:hideous) Sonic, which sparked one of the most fiery protests in decades, destined to change the landscape of the whole film industry. Except that I was slightly overreacting, but nevertheless, Fowler and co. acknowledged these sentiments, and nodded for a complete design overhaul. Who said that nothing can ever be accomplished by just complaining?
Joining Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) in his brand-new-but-truthful design is Green Hills’ somehow inept cop, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), who looks like he made an ambitious crossover to Sonic while filming Smallville or Baywatch, and of course, Sonic’s nemesis, Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey). With that said, it is starting to sound like a great movie, right? Maybe not.
The introductory part of Sonic takes us back to the past to explain why the blue creature migrated to Earth in the very first place. Spoiler alert: There’s something very cute there. But beyond that, the scenes look barely passable because they lack the length and details, and feel more in place as a short cut scene for video games. Yeah, I know, Sonic is a video-game movie, but there has to be more material to keep the audience craving for what’s coming in the next 80-odd minutes.
My skepticism continued beyond the prologue, but rather subjectively, because I just couldn’t connect with the theme that Fowler was trying so hard to play; which was child loneliness. If you have enormous empathy and can be emotionally triggered by this, then by all means, it’s great. Of course, if built into a true animated film for kids, it will be more appropriate. However, for a film that wishes to engage the audience in their 20’s or 30’s, I reckon that the motive has got to be stronger.
And by stronger, I also meant that the introduction of core characters like Tom Wachowski has to strike more chords with the audience, and not just an inept cop that happens to be liked by just about everyone. He’s an honest and pure individual, but seemingly with zero life issues or worries. The same goes to Tom’s wife, Maddie (Tika Sumpter). And even if you further invest your time to observe the insane Dr Robotnik himself, you will find no prelude or motive towards his insanity.
And as you may have guessed it, Robotnik just literally popped out of nowhere, having astronomical amounts of interest towards Sonic from the get-go, just like in the trailers. Though it’s undeniable that Carrey is a man of many tricks, he was somewhat predictable due to the indiscreet nature of the trailers, which had pre-maturely exposed all the goodies that Dr Robotnik has under his civil-war moustache.
If I have to be completely honest, I can’t even tell if the trailers had done the film ultimate good or bad. On one hand, if they had been totally discreet about Sonic and hid his initial design, it would have been a complete disaster once the film hits the theaters. At the same time, the trailers inevitably diluted the Jim Carrey-experience which, honestly, I was quite excited for.
As with the occasional slogs involving the road trip somewhere in the second act, Carrey’s prowess appeared to be under-utilized at first. Fortunately, as Sonic zoomed into the advanced chapters of the plot, Carrey was given more room to flex his muscles as Robotnik, which appeared to be working in synergy with the screenplay gaining distinguishable traction after the slippery start.
The humor did really pick-up from the beginning of the third act onwards, with a surprise performance by Natasha Rothwell effortlessly crippling my laugh-defense system. The final showdown is energetic, fast-paced (it better does!) and ambitious enough to complement its titular character, and the momentum maintained right until the climax is over. The audience are given a glimpse of what gives Sonic his nickname among the folks of Green Hills, which a think is a nice touch to the overall package.
By the time the dust has settled down, there’s an aftermath that’s surprisingly engaging and melts my heart, unlike the child loneliness hoodwink in the beginning that failed to get me into a heart-wreck. At the end of the day, it’s an over-exaggeration to say that Sonic’s character redesign had saved the entire film. It’s also an understatement that Jim Carrey, under the guise of Dr Robotnik, had turned the tide of Sonic with his charms, because what he did was way beyond that. To date, I still can’t come up with any substitute for Robotnik that could potentially leave as much of an impact. Though it may not be obvious, the film definitely owes it to the third act which had tremendously helped Sonic to jump-start again after a lengthy slowdown.
Sonic the Hedgehog seemed to be hopeless off the starting-grid, because even with its supposedly charming redesign, there’s just not enough motivation nor mystery to keep things going as they should. The plot appeared to be overly juvenile, frustratingly nonchalant, and Carrey himself, half exploited. Surprisingly, the film underwent a strange awakening right before the third act, which had given enormous traction and send Sonic flying towards the finishing line with flying colors — The Film Addict
*Sonic the Hedgehog is now available on Prime Video
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