‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ provides nostalgic and mindless entertainment for all ages, but nothing more

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Let’s face it, good movies based on video games are an extreme rarity in film. One must look no further than titles like “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “Assassin’s Creed” as prime examples of movies that fail to live up to their corresponding games. In fact, the only decent video game film in recent memory would be Warner Bros’ “Pokémon Detective Pikachu.” Along with a somewhat compelling plot, the chemistry between Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds was undeniable and gave the film an extra component that elevated it above its more mediocre brethren. With Detective Pikachu setting the gold standard for modern video game movies, comparing “Sonic the Hedgehog” made me realize that they follow a pretty similar formula. A human comes across a creature, being a blue hedgehog or yellow mouse, and has to overcome some kind of obstacle while the antagonist tries to thwart their plans. This is a fairly simple but well-thought out formula that worked well for both movies. But while Detective Pikachu builds upon this formula,  including more deep, meaningful themes and messages, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is notably more forgettable, and fails to provide much more than mindless entertainment and light-hearted humor.

Before delving into the more specific features of the film, let me provide a brief history of Sonic the Hedgehog:

Sonic the Hedgehog is a blue hedgehog with incredible speed and agility created by the Japanese video game company Sega. Created in 1990, Sega wanted an iconic mascot to compete with the hugely popular Mario Brothers – created by their main rival Japanese video game company, Nintendo. After an uninspiring push for a Sega mascot through the character Alex Kidd, Sega released an internal opportunity for employees to submit ideas for a new mascot. Through an informal poll, a spiky teal hedgehog, nicknamed Mr. Needlehouse, was shown to be the most popular. This hedgehog would later become Sega’s infamous blue blur, first appearing in 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis. The response to this game was overwhelmingly positive, and, naturally, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” arrived in November 1992, with “Sonic the Hedgehog 3” arriving in 1994. Both games also received almost entirely positive reviews. But with the introduction of three dimensions to the world of video games, the Mario Brothers made a much smoother transition than Sonic. Through a series of video game blunders from 2000 to today, Sonic the Hedgehog has generally received harsh to mediocre reviews for each new title that Sega releases. But, in June 2014, Sonic fans rejoiced as Sega announced a movie based on their mascot. Five and a half years later, the movie has come to fruition as “Sonic the Hedgehog.” It is worth noting that when the first trailer for the movie came out, the design for Sonic was received so poorly by the public that the director pushed back the release date to fix Sonic’s design.

Now that you’re caught up on the convoluted history of Sonic, let’s continue with the actual review:

“Sonic the Hedgehog” revolves around our titular character, a blue, loud-mouthed hedgehog named Sonic voiced by Ben Schwartz. Raised by an owl named Nightclaw, he is forced out his home planet and transported to Earth via golden rings given to him by Nightclaw. These golden rings, being a major part of the games, allow Sonic to transport from one place to another simply by thinking about the place he wants to go. After becoming older on Earth, he finds solace and comfort in his human “friends” who don’t actually know he exists. Instead, Sonic uses his speed to be around his “friends”, but doesn’t actually talk to them out of fear of being exposed to the public. Sonic, being frustrated with his loneliness, sets off a power surge alerting government agencies and Dr. Robotnik/Dr. Eggman (Jim Carrey), a genius and mad scientist who wants to harness Sonic’s power. One particular friend, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) discovers Sonic after he tries to escape to another world on his property. Sonic loses his rings and runs away with Tom in fear of Dr. Robotnik catching them. Tom and Sonic befriend each other as they try to acquire the rings to help Sonic all while hiding from Dr. Robotnik.

The movie’s simple plot allows for any viewer, regardless of age, to follow along without having prior knowledge of Sonic’s other adventures. While most other video game movies are too convoluted and complicated to understand without previous knowledge of the franchise’s games, Sonic works as a standalone movie, which is an essential factor in why the movie is better than most in the genre. The film also portrays Sonic as a more fun-loving character than some of his previous installations, which makes him a good character for younger children to enjoy.

But undoubtedly, the best part of the movie was the astonishing performance of Dr. Robotnik, or Jim Carrey. Carrey’s take on Dr. Robotnik is so perfect and outrageously funny that I found myself wishing at the conclusion of the movie that there were more scenes with him in it. The physical comedy, a trademark of Jim Carrey, is incredibly on point with the ridiculousness of Dr. Robotnik, and really gives a viewer a break from the story.

Nevertheless, there were two major problems with the film in general. One was the characterization of our hero himself, Sonic. Excluding a small handful of moments in the film, Sonic as a character is extremely irritating. For a small child, this might come across as charming and funny, but for a more adult audience, Sonic’s personality is off-putting.  Secondly, though the film is entertaining, the movie was forgettable and didn’t leave me with some message that transcends the plot. Even while writing this, I’m having trouble remembering some of the more specific details in the film. The movie tries to convey the importance of friendship and family towards the end of the movie, but the nature of the movie, being more childish and frivolous, doesn’t really give the audience the chance to absorb a more meaningful message.

So, is the movie worth a watch? In my opinion, it depends on the type of family you have. If you’re reading this as a parent of a younger child, it’ll be a fun family movie. If you’re reading this as a Sonic the Hedgehog enthusiast, it’s definitely a fun, nostalgic time. But if you’re reading this as a causal viewer, with no young children or knowledge of Sonic the Hedgehog, there are probably other movies that are more worth your time.

Grade: B-