“Sonic the Hedgehog” is just fine, but that’s enough


Courtesy of Paramount

Despite blacklash, “Sonic” is a decent movie.

Shreyas Banerjee, Staff Reporter

The thing about “Sonic the Hedgehog” is that it is entirely aware of what type of movie it is. 

Movies based on video games are notoriously hard to pull off, with almost every one ending in disaster, most notably 1993’s atrocious “Super Mario Bros.” with Bob Hoskins, and this movie seemed to be heading in that direction during initial production. 

Reaction to the first trailer was overwhelmingly negative, with fans of the video game series decrying the change from the original design, disgusted by the CGI abomination. 

After the backlash, Paramount Pictures Corporation delayed the film, redesigning the character and re-animating Sonic’s character design. Obviously, a better character design won’t save any film from being a bad one, but “Sonic the Hedgehog” actually isn’t half bad.

“Remember everyone, this is a cartoon!”

Those are the infamous words shouted by director Joel Schumacher before every take when filming 1997’s “Batman & Robin,” which was derided for being nonsensical and too silly for its own good. 

One could also imagine those same words being shouted before every take of “Sonic,” with everything being extremely over the top and campy to a tee, from the style of the movie, to the acting, to the plot. However, unlike “Batman & Robin,” “Sonic” manages to maintain a campy quality, while still fulfilling its objective of being an entertaining movie.

The “Sonic the Hedgehog” video game series originated in 1991 on the Sega Genesis console, and has had its ups and downs through the years. The original 16-bit games are considered classics, with the original trilogy of games on the Genesis all considered classics of the platforming genre. 

With the introduction of 3D gaming, Sonic’s games have taken a notable dive in quality, with the series never quite finding its footing and even releasing quite terrible games at times, such as 2006’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” or 2014’s “Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric.” However, at the end of the day, the series’ gameplay concept was just running and jumping really fast as the titular blue hedgehog and his friends while fighting the robots of Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik.

This simple concept lends itself quite nicely to a film, with no complicated mythology or background to explain. The exposition in the film is minimal, with the rest of the film devoted to creating a buddy road trip film, filled with all the tropes that can be expected from such a film, including a bar fight and a disagreement and falling out between the buddies at the end of the second act. 

The film is chock-full of cliches, and while that is usually a bad thing, it didn’t bother me too much here, as “Sonic” was marketed as a silly kids’ movie, and delivers well on that concept.

This silliness extends to the performances and setpieces. Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is depicted as a loner going from world to world without any friends, and, due to his extended isolation, has gone completely crazy. 

He talks to himself and never knows when to stop talking. He talks a lot. But his wish for having a friend and a life on Earth is a relatable one that helps drive the more heartfelt moments in the film. Fortunately, he abruptly becomes friends with Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), who, gosh darn it, is just trying his best in a performance with a CGI creature. 

Wachowski is a goofy cop with a heart of gold, played in the most straightforward way possible, with paper-thin motivations, but, again, is depicted well enough to care about. The standout performance, however, is Jim Carrey as Eggman, who has embraced the Saturday morning cartoon nature of this film. 

The epitome of this silliness and camp was on full display in a scene in which Carrey dances for three minutes to music literally called “evil music” in his self-proclaimed “evil lair,” has his head eaten by a holographic Tyrannosaurus rex and screams at his henchman that he loves his lattes and appreciates him, then says a random line in Japanese to show how smart he is. It’s that type of movie. 

But that silliness isn’t out of nowhere; the entire film is infused with it. Scenes where military generals discuss the blue hedgehog threat are the most over the top acting I’ve seen in a while, and all the non-main characters are dumb as rocks. The words, “Remember everyone, this is a cartoon!” kept ringing in my head the entire movie, but I didn’t mind. What’s so wrong with a cartoon?

Something I did mind was the egregious product placement present throughout the film. The Zillow product placement was a clip art depiction of a laptop with the Zillow website on it that the camera just stayed on for a few seconds. Entire jokes are based around Olive Garden. It was not particularly enjoyable or excusable, knowing I was being exposed to advertising for the entire film that I had paid for.

The heart of the film that did succeed, however, is Sonic and Tom’s relationship. While their friendship is sudden and a bit corny, it works and I genuinely felt for Sonic when he is forced with the decision to leave Earth and Tom behind. I suppose if the film can accomplish that, it works at what it was trying to achieve. 

By the end, I was laughing at all the jokes, no matter how bad they were, and cheering with the crowd at the ending’s bombastic action sequence. The film knows it was a mindless cartoon, and I knew it too, so why not go for the ride? Maybe for a video game movie, that’s enough for now.