I remember the first time I played Sonic The Hedgehog pretty vividly and it has stuck with me ever since. The year escapes me, but it was sometime in the early ’90s when Sundays were spent at the grandparent’s home and the Sega Mega Drive would be quickly cracked out. It was there that I first heard that legendary Sega 16-bit chorus before the little blue hedgehog appeared and start shaking his finger at the screen as if to say “here we go!” That experience has never been rivaled but how would such a colourful, exciting, epic adventure translate to the big screen, especially where so many others have floundered? Well, a good start is to get another ‘90s staple, Jim Carrey, to star in it and let’s go from there.
The legacy of video games being made into movies hasn’t been the smoothest with even the better ones – Tomb Raider, Ratchet & Clank, Rampage – not fully being able to realise the look, feel and gameplay without a few bumps here and there. It’s nigh-on impossible, frankly, to replicate the video screen to the cinema one unless you have some smart minds behind the camera and thankfully Sonic The Hedgehog does, and while its virtues will cause much debate amongst fans, there’s no denying the huge love for the characters here even if it won’t win many prizes for originality.
Beginning in a world not too dissimilar to Green Hill Zone, we meet a young Sonic who is being hunted for his super-speed gifts and is sent to Earth – more specifically, Green Hills, Montana – for refuge, living in a secret bunker to a mostly unaware town until his gifts wreck havoc and cause the government to step in to uncover the mystery, bringing in maniacal uber-genius Dr. Robotnik (Carrey), his army of drones and technological advances to investigate. On the run, Sonic finds shelter with local sheriff Tom (James Marsden) and the mismatched twosome set off across the country to find the legendary rings that will allow him to escape Robotnik’s clutches.
Much was made of the first glimpse of our hero in the initial trailers with the fan backlash so strong that the filmmakers – thankfully – took the character back to the drawing board. It was worth it as the initial decision could have destroyed the film even before we had seen it but thankfully the weirdly anatomic design was dumped, in its place is a Sonic we know and love. Brilliantly vocalised by Ben Schwartz, he is the wise-cracking, energetic and mischievous hero we needed right now and any fears are immediately allayed as soon as we meet him.
Jeff Fowler, making his feature debut as director here, does a brilliant job, too, of balancing Sonic and Robotnik’s outlandish tomfoolery with the quieter human moments and while there are many moments aimed at younger viewers with important lessons about tolerance, inclusion, family and not judging a book by its cover, adults may struggle to take much from this despite plenty of smash-bang-wallop.
Then, of course, there’s the triumphant return of Carrey who chews, screws and eschews his way through the film as only he can, serendipitously echoing his turns from his ‘90s classic The Mask and Batman Forever with the kind of frivolity and glee we have seldom seen in recent years. He’s the perfect Robotnik and while there’s much to be learned about him, there’s no better excuse for a second film than him.
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Adventure, Family | USA, 2020 | 14th February 2020 (UK) | Paramount Pictures | Dir.Jeff Fowler | Jim Carrey, Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Neal McDonough