This may be an unpopular opinion — in fact, I’m damn sure it is — but I Hate how the internet pretty much grabbed Sonic the Hedgehog director Jeff Fowler and Paramount Studios by their proverbial collars, kicked them in the bollocks, and demanded that they change the design of the beloved Hedgehog. Not because I like the original design — I don’t. That monstrosity looked like it was designed in a dodgy back alley boob job clinic on Black Friday. Buy one breast, get one breast free (first 10 customers will also get a limited edition Sonic). But I despise the idea that we have the power to mess around with an artist’s vision. Seriously, the only fan a filmmaker should serve is the fan in himself/herself… for better or worse. That said, there’s no denying that the updated design we get in the final cut of the film is infinitely better and true to its source material.
As for the movie itself? Colour me surprised, but it’s actually pretty decent. There are three kinds of “kids movies.” The kind that Disney/Pixar usually comes up with (The Incredibles, Toy Story, Inside Out). Those movies, while primarily aimed at kids, are nuanced, thought-provoking and contain deeper themes and jokes for teens and adults to ponder upon and savour. There’s also the kind of “kids movies” that’s so juvenile and incredibly stupid, you’ll think twice even before bringing your two-year-olds to the theatre in fear that they’d lose so many IQ points, flunk out of kindergarten and become wannabe street performers whose idea of comedy is farting into a microphone. Think The Emoji Movie and Dolittle.
Sonic the Hedgehog falls into the third category. It offers nothing much to adults beyond harmless fun but kids will have a huge blast watching Sonic run around throwing rings and kicking Jim Carey’s ass without having their intelligence insulted. Considering what I thought I was walking into, this my friend is an absolute W.
It opens in Sonic’s fully animated home planet that will cause fans of the source material to leap out of their seats in joy. Suddenly, a bunch of evil creatures that look like baby Ewoks on drugs attack Sonic and his caretaker, Longclaw. In an effort to save little Sonic, Longclaw opens the portal to a faraway planet (earth) with one of her magic rings and tells him to escape and never come back. Sonic spends his childhood in a small town in America, unbeknownst to humans. He lives in a pimped out cave and spends his free time (which is all the time) watching people’s TV from the bushes and spectating little league baseball matches from under the stands. One day, the now teen Sonic accidentally causes a global power surge with his unique powers. The US government deploys a crazy genius by the name of Dr Robotnik to hunt down the mysterious alien creature. A local cop offers to help Sonic get to safety. Shenanigans ensue.
Sonic (voiced wonderfully by Ben Schwartz) is very likeable as the hyperactive, can’t-shut-his-mouth Erinaceomorpha. He’s scared but also happy to have finally made a friend on earth. Despite the mounting troubles, Sonic wants to go to carnivals and hang out with biker gangs. The journey filled with little detours is packed with fun action sequences, the best of which takes place at a bar. When a massive drunken fight breaks out, Sonic uses his super-speed to take them down ala Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past (pump your brakes. It’s not as good as the Quicksilver scene, but it’s fun nonetheless). James Marsden is charming as the enthusiastic cop who happens to stumble into this mess by accident.
But it’s Jim Carrey who steals the show. The villain’s introduction that sees Carrey’s Robotnik interrupt is insufferable, much like we see in the trailer. But Carrey grows on you. His over the top antics (which is true to the source material, by the way) becomes almost magnetic. Memories of his timeless performances like in Ace Ventura and The Mask will come flooding in. Dare I say, this is the best the legendary comedian has been since Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Unsurprisingly, there issues with Patrick Casey and Josh Miller’s screenplay. Early in the film, Marsden’s character, Tom, is labelled as a terrorist and an enemy of the state when he teams up with Sonic. Sonic is branded as a threat to all mankind or something like that. Tom becomes a wanted man, his face plastered across every news channel. Dr Robotnik is hired by the US government to capture this enemy. This plotline is introduced to increase dramatic tension.
Somewhere along the way, though, the screenwriters take this plotline, use it as toilet paper and flush it down the lavatory. Out of nowhere, Robotnik is seen as the maniacal villain, not just by the audience, but by civilians in the movie as well. Why is the small town in which the climactic action is set, rooting for Sonic against Robotnik? And why does a high ranking official of the US government shake hands with Tom at the end and provide a gift? When did this shift in perspective happen? Maybe the answers are written on the pieces of paper that are now buried under poop in the sewage system under Casey and Miller’s houses. I don’t know, I haven’t found the time to check. I recognise that these are warts that will not cross the minds of the film’s primary target audience, but they do bother me, the adult (if I can even call myself that) tasked to put his thoughts on the movie to paper.
I also wonder — and this isn’t a criticism, only a query — what is Hollywood’s obsession with including human characters in these stories? Is it part of the cinematic constitution? The best part of Sonic the Hedgehog is the animated 5-minute prologue set in Sonic’s home planet that’s bursting with personality, colour and interesting characters. It’s cool, filled with wonder and the movie that we probably should’ve gotten.
Sonic the Hedgehog is currently playing in Malaysian cinemas.