Sonic the Hedgehog

 

starstarstar

 

 

The Speedy Gonzales of video games is given his own movie, which is better than one 

might have feared.


Sonic the Hedgehog 

Fast and furry: Sonic and James Marsden

 

Hedgehogs are not as slow as you might think. In short bursts, they can muster speeds of four miles an hour. Sonic, though, is a whole different animal. He can traverse the island on which he lives in two seconds. Indeed, his speed is really a super power. “And with great power,” he tells us, “comes great power-hungry bad guys.” When a horde of wrong ‘uns fatally wounds Sonic’s mentor, Longclaw the Owl, he is forced to escape through a ring-shaped wormhole. The gateway lands him on planet Earth, that great sanctuary for all extraterrestrial refugees. It is there – or here – that Sonic establishes a lair in Montana from which to observe the comings-and-goings of humankind, play ping pong with himself and foster a crush on Keanu Reeves, the star of Speed. He also develops a love of baseball where, with his astonishing velocity, he can out-run the ball. But one night his lonely frustration results in such an energy surge that he knocks out the entire power grid of the Pacific Northwest. Such things can get an urchin noticed, and so the army dispatches a technical titan to ascertain the source of the outage. And he, Dr Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey, no less), is not good news for anybody…

 

If one has to make a live-action feature of the Sega video game, it’s wise to have a sense of the ridiculousness of the venture. And the film is not short of its own sense of the bizarre. Like many alien visitors, Sonic’s uniqueness is taken at face value, besides the odd double-take. He’s blue, he’s furry and he has colossal eyes. However, because he is so fast, most people don’t get a chance to see him, even Tom Wachowski, the upstanding sheriff of Green Hills (a likeable James Marsden), who catches ‘something’ on his speed camera.

 

The film, aimed at both the very young and the slightly older, deals with issues of loneliness, diversity and tolerance, but mainly it’s all about the fun of the ride. It’s been half a decade since Jim Carrey starred in the critically annihilated sequel Dumb and Dumber To, but he has lost none of his manic energy and improvised most of his lines. And while the film is entertaining enough without him, he brings a real inventiveness to his scenes that cranks up the comic pedigree. Have we actually missed this force of nature? When Robotnik first encounters Tom Wachowski’s wife, Maddie (Tika Sumpter), he leers, “does she have a name? Or shall we just call her Collateral Damage?”

 

The film, which marks the directorial debut of the visual effects artist Jeff Fowler, is not great art, but it zips along nicely and, judging by the screening I attended, knows the funny bone of its demographic. The technical wizardry operated by Robotnik is also something to marvel at, with its own set of comic asides, while Sonic himself is an engaging creation. The standard barroom brawl is given a new twist when, as if he has stopped time itself, Sonic rushes around booby-trapping his adversaries to amusing effect. The ending leaves the film open to a sequel and with its record-breaking opening (for a video game-based movie), the inevitable follow-up should not leave critics in a cold sweat.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Neal McDonough, Lee Majdoub, Tom Butler, Frank C. Turner, Melody Niemann, and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic.

 

Dir Jeff Fowler, Pro Neal H. Moritz, Toby Ascher, Toru Nakahara and Takeshi Ito, Screenplay Pat Casey and Josh Miller, Ph Stephen F. Windon, Pro Des Sean Haworth, Ed Debra Neil-Fisher and Stacey Schroeder, Music Junkie XL, Costumes Debra McGuire.

 

Sega Sammy Group/Original Film/Marza Animation Planet/Blur Studio-Paramount Pictures.

98 mins. USA/Japan/Canada. 2020. Rel: 14 February 2020. Cert. PG.