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Film Review: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) is a live-action video game film based on the well-beloved character from Sega. Directed by Jeff Fowler, this film stars James Marsden and Jim Carrey, with the voice of Sonic provided by Ben Schwartz. When Sonic creates a power cut around all of America, he tries to escape to Mushroom Kingdom using the golden rings but instead loses them. Now, he is taken on a road trip with policeman Tom Wachowski (Marsden) to retrieve his rings so he can escape Dr. Robotnik (Carrey).

Credit should be given where credit is due, and the team behind the visual effects should be given a lot of credit for all of the work they had to do to rework the graphics. This is a major step up from what was showcased in the original trailer and worth the wait for this release. Whilst I am not one for a general audience telling the professionals what to do, this was one case where it seemed obvious that a redesign was needed to capture the spirit of Sonic, even just for the kids. Overall, the CGI work was fantastic and Sonic looked great blended in with the world.

There were some elements that had fun with the video game aspect, which has been lacking in a lot of video game adaptations. I liked the utilisation of the golden rings, something so iconic in the franchise and yet opened up the possibilities to explore further worlds in the future, with a sequel imminent from the mid-credit scene and the box office. There are also certain sequences, from the world-building of Sonic’s original home to the race sequence against Dr. Robotnik, that felt nostalgic and so much fun. It is in these moments that the film lets loose and plays at its best.

However, this does not occur often enough as this film, unfortunately, panders to the humour of the children of this generation. Well, I say that, but I did not hear any children at my screening laugh and I had quite a full screen of children between the ages of five and ten. If anything, there were a few throwaway lines that made the adults laugh (and some of them really do work) but I did not feel the excitement coming off from this film. As a children’s film, this is one that has prolonged moments of outdated humour targeted at children and references that feel out of place.

The story itself makes no sense, and I get that it does not need to to be entertaining, but there are plots that are ignored and concepts that seem interesting yet go nowhere. The idea of an “alien” creature befriending a human and slowly becoming accepted by others is now getting overdone, and it makes the opening set-up of Sonic’s original world and the Knuckles-inspired baddies (which is such a cool concept and one of the more fun elements of the film) feel wasted. There is set-up with James Marsden’s character, Tom, of him needing to stay clean as a cop and to not get himself into trouble. After he meets Sonic, this could have been a good moral dilemma that he has to go through and a motive for some of his actions, and yet it never takes that route. Instead, this outlandish journey happens and then all the consequences never feel substantial.

There is one character in the sister of Tom’s wife who is designed for comic relief but is completely irritating and awful to watch. Her only personality trait is to hate on Tom for no rational reason. They try to play a divorce joke in the film and it falls completely flat because it is completely unbelievable. It tries to come off as an adult joke and yet there is no reason for it to exist. Tom is set up to be the perfect husband, putting his life on the line for his wife, working extra to afford her PhD and providing for the both of them, so why would anyone believe that they would be divorced? It came off as completely cheap and forced, and yet it still wasn’t funny.

Everyone in this film is just fine. Ben Schwartz is fine with the voice work for Sonic, nothing revolutionary and exciting, but not boring or dull. James Marsden is given no substance to work with and has to be completely stereotypical, but he does a good job giving that. It’s not a great performance, but I can’t even blame Marsden for that. Jim Carrey is the only person here given some creative freedom with his performance, and he does have fun in his own way. I almost wish they took it even further, particularly at the end where his character does start to shape into more of the Sega personification of Dr. Robotnik. It is something that I hope they explore further in the sequel because the idea of Jim Carrey going fully back into his old zany roles is something I can completely get behind.

Overall, I appreciate the extra work that went into this film from the CGI department after the first trailer, but CGI simply couldn’t save this film. With such a bland story that is told with a bad mix of tones and humour that simply doesn’t work for any demographic, I would, unfortunately, say that this one is a skip. If you have children that want to be entertained, this may work if they are a fan of the franchise. However, there will soon be other animated films such as Onward releasing and they may be worth the family trip out more. This is a hard one for adults to sit through.


Have you seen Sonic the Hedgehog yet? Did the CGI help your enjoyment of the film, or was there too many problems for your enjoyment? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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