Review: Sure, they fixed Sonic's teeth, but they didn't add any actual jokes

Courtesy Paramount Pictures and Sega of America

Courtesy Paramount Pictures and Sega of America

Sonic the Hedgehog will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first video game I ever owned. It supplied the early high of 16-bit super speed and the lifelong fear of drowning in the Labyrinth Zone. Hell, I loved the franchise so much as a kid that I even got into the Archie Comics series.

And yet, no level of fandom can overcome the mediocrity of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie.

Video game adaptations have such a brutal track record it’s kind of mind-blowing they continue to get made. Be it Street Fighter, Resident Evil, or the Tomb Raider outings, something about the medium just doesn’t seem to translate. With that in mind, I actually have to give Sonic the Hedgehog some credit. While it’s not a good movie, it’s at least watchable—and compared to something like Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, it may as well be Parasite.

The film opens on a faraway planet. A blue baby hedgehog zips through the vibrant flora and familiar loop-de-loops of the Green Hill Zone, as an older Sonic (Ben Schwartz) recalls his happy upbringing. The salad days are spoiled when a band of bad guys discover our hero’s incredible power, and so lil bb Sonic must travel across the universe and hide out in small-town Montana.

It’s a lonesome existence, but Sonic stays safe and hidden for years. Then one day he runs a bit too fast, causes an electrical surge, and blacks out the entire Pacific Northwest. In doing so, he draws the attention of the evil Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).

Thus, the groundwork is laid for a fairly uncomplicated kids’ adventure. Sonic the Hedgehog does repeatedly touch on concepts of isolation, family, and finding your place in the world. However, its execution feels lacking compared to, say, a Pixar flick. I imagine even the youngins could sense the color-by-numbers foundation.

The focus here seems to be mostly on jokes, but Sonic doesn’t offer much in the way of actual laughs. It’s great having kids in these screenings, because they’re finely tuned comedy barometers. And if I’m not laughing and they’re not laughing, I know we got a problem.

Listen, I can’t not love Ben Schwartz. The dude is a comedic genius and his casting feels right on the money. I just wish he’d gotten more to work with than attention-deficit gags. Same goes for Carrey, who’s channeling some of his early-’90s mania but can only do so much with this script. Still, I can’t imagine how lackluster Sonic would have been without Carrey and Schwartz.

Of course, you can’t talk about this picture without bringing up the massive VFX overhaul We the People of the Internet pretty much forced to happen. Sonic’s redesign is leagues better than the Cats-esque horror show we saw in the first trailer, and the fix probably did save this movie (to the degree it could be considered “saved”). Although one of the unintended side effects of the change is that I spent the entire runtime imagining what things would have looked like with the original toothy design.

Twitter is a cesspool, but it’s nice to see that it can, in fact, affect positive change. It’d be great if that power was used to, I don’t know, save the republic—but hey, a better-looking, run-of-the-mill Sonic the Hedgehog movie is pretty good, too.

Sonic the Hedgehog
directed by Jeff Fowler
area theaters, now playing