‘Sonic’ zooms onto the big screen

After years of development hell and a negatively received trailer, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is finally making the leap from video game to the big screen this month. After all the time that’s passed since Sonic’s heyday, is the movie worth a look? Our verdict is yes, but expect to check your brain at the door of the theater.

Sonic — voiced by Ben Schwartz — is a blue hedgehog that lives on an alien planet and possesses the ability to move and run at extremely high speeds. Unfortunately for Sonic, villains back on his home planet trick him into using his magic rings to transport himself to another world: Earth. When the US government learns of his presence, they send scientist Dr. Robotnik — played by Jim Carrey — to find him. This leads Sonic to ask the local sheriff Tom — played by James Marsden — to help him get his rings back and escape before being found.

Video game adaptations tend to be bad, and from one perspective, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is no exception. The humor is largely flat, basing itself in flatulence jokes and pop-cultural references, so the film is sure to have a very short shelf life. The original “Sonic” — released back in 1991 — is one of the best-selling video games of all time. Cashing in on a character that hasn’t been culturally relevant since the nineties, it seems as if this adaptation is at least two decades late to the party.

The film presents two highly unexpected choices made by its creators. The first being that the movie is made explicitly for children; this will probably disappoint many viewers since any hardcore fan of the “Sonic” franchise is likely an adult in their forties.

The second unusual choice is how little the plot follows the story of the game. Not that “Sonic” had much of a story to begin with, but this development opts to bring the blue hedgehog to Earth and creates a fish-out-of-water narrative for cheap laughs. Moreover, the filmmakers were originally going to give Sonic a different appearance with small beady eyes and creepy human-like teeth. But after the disastrous fan reception to an early trailer, the project was delayed three months to give the animators time to change the design in order to look more like he did in the games. This CGI redo cost the studio $5 million, and it’s all the better for it.

But otherwise, apart from some running sequences and token video game references thrown around in the dialogue, the movie doesn’t do much to replicate the style of the games. It’s, at the very least, visually neat and the scenes of Sonic running are quick and thrilling. Additionally, there are sections where Sonic moves so fast that time seems to stand still. It is funny, if not borrowed from the Quicksilver scenes in the “X-Men” franchise.

His origin is rather tedious too. It’s not until Carrey shows up 30 minutes in as the villainous Dr. Robotnik that the movie lights up and becomes funny. He’s basically playing an evil Ace Ventura with a ridiculous fake mustache, but his manic energy and committed performance give the film life.

When Robotnik is offscreen, it doesn’t hold up as well. Marsden and Schwartz have some chemistry — which is impressive given Marsden couldn’t see the character he was supposed to be talking to — but their journey is predictable and full of the same emotional beats attributed to every other buddy movie.

The occasional visual flair and odd funny line will work to keep audiences mildly entertained, but Carrey steals the show with his exaggerated performance. The ending of the movie sequel-baits hard, and normally I wouldn’t count on that happening. However, considering the hefty box office profits it’s turned in, I think a follow-up can be expected. It’s a perfectly fine action comedy you can turn your brain off to and enjoy, just anticipate an audience full of children.

Star Rating: Three stars

Good:

  • Jim Carrey is a riot.
  • Good performances all around.
  • Impressive special effects on the Sonic character and action scenes.

Bad:

  • Lowbrow humor.
  • Predictable plot.
  • Little faithfulness to the video game it’s based on.
Sonic, voiced by Ben Schwarts, teams up with small-town sheriff Tom, played by James Marsden.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
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