“Sonic” is another lazy video game movie

In 2016, Tim Miller and Jeff Fowler began development on “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Two years later, in 2018, the ‘Floss’ dance peaked in popularity. Now, in 2020, although ‘flossing’ has gone the way of the Dougie or Harlem Shake, the character Sonic does the dance, not once, but twice, in his eponymous film, as if he is serving as some cringe-inducing time capsule of yesteryear.

This is emblematic of this film as a whole. It’s planned obsolescence in film form: built for short-term payoff rather than long-term enjoyment. The writers chose to bank on passing fads for all of their comic material, leading some to have become dated between when it was written and when the film premiered. Joke material includes Keanu Reeves, selfies, Amazon drones, and hipsters, all of which failed to garner even a sharp exhale from the audience. While some of the jokes still hold up, like one saying emails are just as bad as bombs in modern politics, they certainly won’t even a year from now. All this to say, Sonic the Hedgehog definitely won’t be rewatched anytime soon—but is it worth watching the first time?

When Sonic (Ben Schwartz) accidentally causes an energy surge, wiping out the electrical grid of the PNW and attracting the attention of the US Government, he must go to San Francisco to find his magic rings and escape earth. With evil scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) on his tail, Sonic must embark on an epic road trip alongside a small town traffic cop, learn the power of friendship and save the world.

No one expected this film to be a masterpiece, but it fails to entertain or engage the viewer. The problem is that Sonic the Hedgehog is not really a Sonic movie; it is a boiler-plate family action comedy with the character of Sonic grotesquely stitched into it. The whole point of Sonic is that he’s fast, but yet he spends the majority of the film sitting in a car. The film isn’t even clever enough to excuse this with Sonic losing his speed powers, opting instead to say Sonic just doesn’t know how to get to San Francisco. I refuse to believe that a fictional blue hedgehog who knows who ZZ Top is can’t figure out the American highway system. It’s not that hard to take I-90 to I-5. He would only need to take two exits the whole trip. By not drawing on the abundant source material available to it, Sonic alienates its target audience and becomes just another mediocre kid-friendly action film to take up space in the box office.

So, what does the film have going for it? Jim Carrey plays Jim Carrey playing a plot device. His character, Dr. Robotnik, is a pedantic, haughty, mustachioed villain, and the most grating character in the film, but perhaps that’s the point. If Ace Ventura 2 is your favorite comedy, you’ll enjoy this performance. He has some zany moments, and you can’t really say he phoned it in, but making weird faces doesn’t make your character funny or interesting. 

When fans complained after seeing the character design of Sonic in the initial trailer, Paramount reacted. They could have put this out in November and saved several million dollars, but instead they fixed the freakishly human vfx, increased their budget, and delayed the release of the film. In this day and age, that’s a bold move for a major studio, and should be commended. 

The end of the film teases a sequel which looks like it would drift more toward the roots of Sonic, with a more classic cartoonish look for Dr. Robotnik, and the reveal of another familiar character, Tails. I only wish that they had been more faithful to the source material the first time around, but maybe this generic family film was a safer move. After all, the film beat Paramount’s own box-office projections for its opening weekend, making it the highest grossing film of the weekend.