Last year, Sonic the Hedgehog made news for his first-ever live-action movie in the works, and the trailer was released in April. However, fans were outright disgusted to see one of the most iconic video game characters in history designed as an anthropomorphic nightmare. Things weren’t looking bright for the film’s release in November. Unexpectedly, director Jeff Fowler responded by delaying the movie to redesign a Sonic more accurate to the games.
The new design revealed in the movie’s second trailer received overwhelming praise for Sonic’s more cartoonish form, with animation akin to Detective Pikachu. The revised movie was released on Valentine’s Day 2020. With the changes put in place, is it enough to make you fall in love with Sonic the Hedgehog all over again?
Sonic the Hedgehog starts in the middle of an intense and explosive chase between Dr. Robotnik and Sonic in San Francisco, all before Sonic gives you a cliché but funny, “you’re probably wondering how I got here” moment. Just a few seconds in, you already get filled in on Sonic’s personality.
As a disclaimer, fans should expect a new story written for Sonic, as characters like Knuckles and Tails, and the overarching plot of the Chaos Emeralds are not in this movie. Fans of the video games might question this, but the new lore is treated weightlessly, so it’s not much of a distraction.
The real story is the friendship that forms between Sonic, played by Ben Schwartz, and small-town cop Tom Wachowski, played by Jason Marsden, while on the run from Dr. Ivo Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey.
Tom Wachowski is an aspiring officer who wants to do more big jobs instead of helping do errands for the town of Green Hills, Montana (a call back to the iconic Green Hills Zone in the video games.) Meanwhile, Sonic is the only one of his species on Earth and spends much of his time in seclusion. Watching Tom and his family, he wishes for a real friend. To make sure he doesn’t go insane he uses his super-speed ability to interact with himself almost simultaneously, while simultaneously emphasizing how much he is alone. This is a nice touch from the movie. With their own personal narratives, Tom and Sonic mesh together seamlessly and have great chemistry with each other.
One of Sonic’s goals in the movie is to get his rings back. The movie has been able to reinvent staples of the original video game series, such as reworking the iconic rings that Sonic collects in the game into the film’s “McGuffin,” or object that is necessary for the story to move forward. Rings are used as portals to different worlds, which is how Sonic ended up on Earth.
Some of the standout performances were by Carrey and Schwartz. Even when side by side, Carrey meets the same level of animation in his performance as Sonic, an actual CG animated character.
Schwartz’s voice was a satisfying Hollywood rendition of Sonic, and his performance made Sonic lovable without teetering on the edge of irritability. Moviegoer Mario Cruz felt the same, “Sonic was not as annoying as I expected him to be,” he said. “He was actually well developed as a character.”
It helps that Schwartz is an actual fan of the Sonic series, playing the game as a child. “When it was released in 1991, the speed at which you could play it was remarkable,” said Schwartz in a press interview with IGN. Experiences like this really helped him really tap into the character of Sonic, and viewers can tell from his performance.
Sonic and Dr. Robotnik really stand out, but at the expense of the other characters. The more human characters like Tom and his family, unfortunately, stand by the wayside. James Marsden’s character as Tom Wachowski is admirable but carries the arc of being a cliché good cop. But he’s sufficient to fill the role as a human interacting with an animated being in a live-action movie (i.e. the Smurfs or the similar video game movie Detective Pikachu.)
Sonic the Hedgehog is a great family film that should please those unfamiliar to the lovable blue hedgehog, and those who’ve been fans for decades. With some glaring plot holes and cliches, if you don’t look too deep into it, Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun-filled movie with great humor and animated characters (both in performance and CGI.) It’ll be a fast hour and forty minutes.
And make sure you don’t go too fast after the movie, there’s a special after-credits scene for loyal Sonic fans.