This review is spoiler-free.
In April 2019, we got the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog and its safe to say that it sent a shock wave through the internet. Sonic’s creepy, realistic-toothy design was universally panned, so much so that Paramount made the decision to put the entire movie on hold to completely re-design Sonic, at great expense! They drafted in Sonic supremo Tyson Hesse to take charge of the design team and the end result finally gave us the Sonic we wanted. But did this expensive gamble pay off? Early signs suggest that it just might have! Sonic the Hedgehog has already beaten Detective Pikachu‘s record for best three-day opening in the US for a video game movie. While there is still a long way to go in terms of seeing how much money the studio will recover, it is a positive sign that audiences are responding by going to see the movie. The picture will become clear in the next month, with the film hitting the Asian market in March. With an impressive $100m opening weekend in the bag, time will tell if Sonic has the stamina to go the distance! Anyway, enough talk of re-shoots and box office, you came here for a review! So let’s get to it!
Let me start by saying that Sonic the Hedgehog does a great job of reinventing the wheel, and by that I mean don’t expect to be blown away by originality! The film follows a very tried and tested formula and sticks to it rigidly. You continuously find yourself one-step in front of the story, the plot beats are that predicable! If I watched this movie with a checklist, I would have left the cinema with a tick in every box. Thankfully, while driving very close to edge at times, the movie never goes over a cliff. Breaking down the the movie, it is the middle act that drags on far too long. This is a shame, as the film’s opening and ending are very good. Another disappointing note, quite literally, was the film’s score. Tom Holkenborg, has a pretty good track record when it comes to his projects, so I was eager to see what he had in store for Sonic. Sadly, it all felt rather flat and uninspiring. The use of the iconic Sonic theme was rationed so much so that I felt hunger pains. There were so many key moments when the music could have been used to enhance the visuals and story moments. Sadly, this feels like a phoned-in affair.
One of my biggest concerns, from the trailers, was the tone and who this film was actually being aimed at. The trailer’s ‘fart joke’ set alarm bells ringing in my head, but then again if Watchmen can get away with it…
Thankfully, I think the film has a much wider appeal than I thought it was going to have. OK, so this film is clearly aimed at a family audience, with the key demographic being pre-teens. However, I would also say that there are plenty of themes and jokes that will appeal to a more mature audience. While it doesn’t hit that balance as perfectly as a movie like Shrek, for example, there were plenty of occasions when it was only the adults laughing in the cinema. So if you grew up with Sonic, but are put off going to see this film because you’re afraid it is going to be too childish, don’t worry, there is definitely something for everyone here!
In terms of the cast and characters, the trio of Sonic (Ben Schwartz), Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) form a very strong foundation, with their performances lifting the film up during some of it’s more stagnant scenes. Ben Schwartz is brilliant as Sonic, with the right amount of playfulness and humour that makes his character very appealing. James Marsden clearly had a lot of fun with this role and this translated in his performance. Sonic and Tom’s relationship, throughout the film, felt very real and organic. As for Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Dr. Ivo Robotnik, he managed to deliver the perfect balance of menace and absurdity without ever over-stepping that line. When it come to Jim Carrey, you always expect a performance turned up to eleven, maybe even twelve! Sometimes this works, sometimes it fails spectacularly. But this was the perfect Carrey performance, mixing up the right amount of great physical comedy with well fleshed-out character moments. I think it also important to mention Maddie Wachowsk (Tika Sumpter), who leaves a lasting impression, despite her lack of screen time. She may not be given much, but when she is, she adds real value to movie.
Following on from this great cast, I have to say that the one thing I didn’t expect Sonic the Hedgehog to do was to connect with me on an emotional level. I did not see this coming. There were a few times during the film where they really cranked up the feels, and as well as the comedy and adventure elements, at it’s heart this is a film with a lot of heart. It has a real focus on family, friendships and the sense of belonging. Adding these great story and character moments to the frantic action sequences scattered throughout the film, you do get a well rounded film, even if it is a little safe and predictable. If you look at the production journey this film has been on, while in no way perfect or unique, I would say it has done a good job in producing a fun and enjoyable movie.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun, family-adventure packed full of humour, excitement and heart. Despite the movie following a VERY predictable and formulaic blueprint, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had, with the movie having a strong appeal to both family and adult audiences alike!
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