Why can’t we stop talking about Sonic the Hedgehog? Almost a year ago, in April of 2019, the movie made headlines after its first trailer. The reason? Its absolutely horrific design for Sonic. His eyes were small and beady, his teeth were shockingly human, and his overall look was so photorealistic that he scarcely resembled the fuzzy, blue hedgehog we have come to love from the original Sega games. Apparently, the dozens of articles on the subject and the public outcry were heard by the producers—just a few days later, they announced that Sonic’s design was to be changed and the movie’s release date postponed.
This, in turn, caused a fuss involving criticisms of those initial naysayers. Changing Sonic’s design would necessitate already–overworked animators putting in more hours to update the main character’s look, especially because Sonic stars in basically every scene. This led to further conversation about how animators are treated in the movie business. Overall, the main problem seemed to be the massive blunder on the part of Paramount. Who the hell makes a whole movie starring Sonic without making sure that people are actually going to like how Sonic looks?
After its delayed release, Sonic the Hedgehog finally came out on Valentine’s Day of 2020, ten months after the initial trailer was released. The question at hand became clear—were all of those delays and design changes worth it? The answer—probably not.
See, even in altering Sonic’s design to make him appear more cartoonish, the blue hedgehog has a fatal flaw—he's so unbearably annoying that enjoying his presence on screen is impossible. Ben Schwartz voices him and makes an admirable attempt to add some charm, but Sonic’s main draw is that he acts like an overexcited child at every waking moment. This could be seen as sweet— if only every time he had an emotional scene, he didn’t simply pout and gaze longingly into the distance. Clearly, the movie’s attempts at emotional charge fall shockingly flat. Children aren't stupid and can process that Sonic is feeling lonely by the way he sadly watches Tom (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) through the window, wishing to be a part of their family. Of course, five minutes later, Sonic is giving a voice–over monologue about how dreadfully lonely he is, so any subtlety is left behind.
The dialogue is increasingly irritating aspect. The movie is sprinkled with current pop culture reference that will likely seem stale within the next decade. A couple is watching Speed and Sonic remarks that he adores Keanu Reeves. A character insultingly calls another a “hipster.” Besides that point, at every classic action–movie dialogue beat, the film feels the need to subvert expectations and make a funny quip. This technique amuses the first few times, but, eventually, the conversations between Tom and the villain feel like useless verbal sparring.
As for the cast, Jim Carrey as Dr. Ivo Robotnik is about ten notches above everyone else, which makes him absolutely perfect. Despite the relative blandness of Tom and the other human characters, Carrey carries the whole load and makes Sonic actually exciting. He is an unhinged scientist who spends his time creating oval–shaped robots that attack our cast of heroes at various moments, which Sonic comments look like eggs—hence the name Dr. Eggman, who Carrey slowly transforms into as the movie progresses. Watching this villain’s descent into comical insanity is probably the most compelling through–line of Sonic.
The plot of the movie is exciting enough—Sonic, with the help of Tom, must retrieve his iconic rings, which he has accidentally transported into San Francisco. Meanwhile, Eggman and his robots are trying to capture Sonic for testing, declaring Tom a terrorist in the process. This is particularly harmful to Tom, since he's a cop trying to get a transfer into San Fran. The peculiarity of a terrorist plot line in a children’s movie is not lost on adult audience members—same with the staunchly pro–cop stance the film takes, even though Tom’s main goal is just to save a life, not actively help society in any way.
Sonic the Hedgehog, while not a particularly good movie, has had a fairly good box office showing. It attracts young audiences as well as adults who desire a bout of nostalgia. Of course, if you’re looking for a feeling of happy remembrance about your favorite video game character, you’re probably better off skipping the movie version and just replaying those games, anyway.