Sonic the Hedgehog
D: Jeff Fowler
S: Ben Schwartz (voice), James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter
Even when Sega’s flagship series was in its heyday, a movie adaptation was already in the pipeline. But when the teaser for Sonic the Hedgehog finally dropped nearly three decades later, fans were aghast. The cobalt blue speedster looked like he was wearing dentures. It was unsettling, to say the least. Even more baffling was the use of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise as backing track of said teaser. Wasn’t that from a movie about racial segregation, among other heavy themes? Was this collaboration by Paramount Pictures and Japan’s Marza Animation Planet set to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death”, just like several other video game-inspired movies before it? At the time, it sure seemed like it.
Well, fortunately, the team quickly addressed the backlash. Three days after the trailer’s release, director Jeff Fowler tweeted that an overhaul was in order, to make the character look “…the BEST he can be”. Commercial release was delayed by three months and the postponement sure paid off. Sonic no longer looked like a spiky humanoid. For that, fans have Tyron Hesse, who drew the character for the comic book, to partially thank. He headed the redesign team.
It’s a relief to see the protagonist back in bug-eyed form, especially with Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) providing electric juvenile spirit. He’s not just the voice. He’s the soul! In this iteration, Sonic flees his home planet and winds up in fictional Green Hills, Montana, where an old-timer calls him The Blue Devil. There’s bliss in being an urban legend, at first. Soon, however, he starts developing an affinity towards the townsfolk, particularly the town sheriff (an eager James Marsden) and his wife (a charming Tika Sumpter). Donut Lord and Pretzel Lady, he calls them endearingly. Trouble mounts when Sonic loses his vital supply of gold rings. And then, enter Jim Carrey, delivering Jim Carrey-isms like he hasn’t in ages, as the handlebar-moustached evildoer Dr. Robotnik who wants Sonic’s power. We missed you too, Mr. Carrey. Now, on with the chase.
Not everything in this frothy concoction takes form and, at points, things do head towards the formulaic. Kids won’t mind. As for grown-ups, well, there’s comfort in knowing how this movie redeems itself in more ways than one. Much like the titular hero, the rambunctious energy of this adaptation keeps things from slowing down and will likely set the momentum for a sequel or two. The mid-credit cameo already hints as much.