Sonic The Hedgehog runs at an uncharacteristically slow pace. Despite how the new Jeff Fowler directed film features the iconic Sega video game speedster, Sonic The Hedgehog is a miserable drag that swaps meaningful emotional depth for awful potty-joke comedy meant to appease children. While Sonic has always been beloved by kids for his juvenility, his debut movie lacks the heart that good Sonic video games and cartoons possess. It’s soulless.
A scene halfway in this overly long hour and 40 minute borefest perfectly exemplifies Sonic The Hedgehog’s uncharming immaturity and deficient creativity. Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz and whose CG had to be redesigned after a public outcry) and the human Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) are sitting in a dive bar discussing the concept of a bucket list. Sonic, not comprehending how the term “kick the bucket” equates to “being dead”, makes a naive groan inducing quip about how he has a lot to do before he literally kicks a bucket. The scene then transitions to a montage sequence of activities on Sonic’s bucket list that can be achieved while in the bar.
After the montage, the scene transitions back to the table where Sonic and Tom are sitting. The two are conversing before being interrupted by a group of bikers. After a bad dialogue exchange, a bar fight ensues, and Sonic utilizes his super speed abilities to incapacitate everyone in the restaurant. Sonic moves so fast that everyone else appears to be standing still, and while this sounds cool, the sequence is clearly a rip-off of the famous Quicksilver sequence in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. The scene ends with both Sonic and Tom hightailing it to the car before the woozy bar patrons realize what the hell happened.
The scene doesn’t work. The sequence is meant to be a character bonding moment between Sonic and Tom that strengthens their friendship, yet it feels so obviously orchestrated and by the numbers that it falls flat. Rather than caring, I was left irritated: a mood that summarizes my entire experience watching Sonic The Hedgehog.
Sonic The Hedgehog’s problems begin with its lackadaisical story. The plot follows Sonic who flees his home planet after an unnamed group of baddies tried to abduct him. Due to a portal jump, Sonic is stranded on earth and forced into hiding within the small town of Green Hills, Montana. Circumstances, however, change when he arouses the suspicion of Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey): a mechanical genius working for the US government. Avoiding Robotnik, Sonic requests the help of local police officer Tom, and from there, they both go on a road trip to San Francisco to retrieve Sonic’s teleportation rings.
Sonic The Hedgehog is a rote, lazy, and cliche ridden family film. Like The Smurfs, Alvin And The Chipmunks, and other horrid kids movies before it, Sonic The Hedgehog features a CGI character from another world interacting with a “real” world similar to our own. This type of “cartoon character in the real world” narrative grants the film’s poor script an excuse to shoehorn pop-culture references and shameless product placement like Olive Garden’s never ending pasta bowl into the movie. As a result, Sonic The Hedgehog feels like a cheap and shallow experience that’s made worse by a hamfisted theme about family that poorly plays on America’s rural vs urban divide.
Sonic The Hedgehog’s awful plotting is frustrating for those of us who love the video games. Sonic The Hedgehog had the potential to be a much better movie. Instead of formulating a reason for Sonic to cut a literal wet-fart in front of Tom and the audience, Sonic The Hedgehog could’ve been about something. The video games, afterall, contain strong environmental and anti corporate themes. In a better film, Doctor Robotnik would invade Sonic’s planet and consume its resources, and Sonic, Tails, and the rest of his friends would have to fight back. Now that’s a movie I’d prefer to see over the actual cinematic trash we inevitably received.
Making matters worse, the humans in this movie appear to have taken a whole bottle of stupid pills. In regards to how they interact with Sonic, most human characters are oblivious to the notably blue, fuzzy, and talking character. Even though he often wears a disguise or loudly complains about being zipped into a duffel bag, the human characters merely look befuddled (though there are some exceptions) whenever confronted by the existence of a chili cheese dog chowing rodent. Even a video game NPC would question Sonic’s antics more than these characters.
Jim Carrey’s Doctor Robotnik further exemplifies Sonic The Hedgehog’s onscreen stupidity. As Sonics arch nemesis, Carrey hams up this movie. He plays Robotnik like he did The Grinch, The Riddler, and Ace Ventura back in the 90s and 2000s, and while this might sound amusing, his Schtick is old and dated. Moments where he acts like an evil super genius and belittles his inferiors with a childlike demeanor just doesn’t have that same allure that they once did in films released 2-3 decades ago.
Carrey’s Robotnik additionally highlights Sonic The Hedgehog’s broken thematic core. The movie attempts to have a message about family, but this familial theme falls flat when surrounded by Sonic The Hedgehog’s lackadaisical world building and abysmal character development. Sonic The Hedgehog tries, REALLY tries, to pit Sonic’s and Tom’s small town American values against Robotnik’s cultural snobbishness and elitism, but the conflict doesn’t work; it only feels like a weak facsimile of America’s current urban vs rural clash rather than a real conflict with depth. Robotnik’s rationale for being evil is never explained satisfactorily. He’s a villain without a real story. He isn’t the antithesis of Sonic’s desire for a family; Robotnik means nothing to anything and anyone.
This leaves Sonic’s and Tom’s friendship in the film’s driver’s seat. The duo are the closest thing this movie gets to giving the audience a lifeline to care and empathize, but sorry to say, their banter and heart to fur moments weren’t enough for me to give a damn. By the end, Sonic The Hedgehog is a story littered with modern kids’ movie tropes and cliches told in the worst way possible. Whether it’s the awful product placement, dull action beats, or horrible characters, Sonic The Hedgehog is a lifeless experience meant to appease its bland and tasteless corporate overlords. In this regard, Sonic The Hedgehog is the movie Doctor Robotnik would make if given the chance. Sadly, not even Sonic can out sprint this stank.